The spear pierceth

nigeria and the Ogonis had brought to the world's attention one outrage; the remote province of Irian Jaya in Indonesia is highlighting another. Replace Royal Dutch Shell ( Down To Earth , Vol 4, No 14) with Freeport Indonesia, and the elements of the drama remain the same: a long corporate track record of environmental misdemeanour, outraged tribals who demand adequate compensation and equity and an oppressive military regime that colludes with the corporation in cracking down on opponents. Amidst this maelstrom of controversy, Freeport Indonesia, the Indonesian unit of the us mining company Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Inc (based in New Orleans), seems to have pulled out all the stops to clear itself of the numerous charges levelled at it.

In April, three developments occurred that bucked up the company. James Moffet, the head of Freeport McMoran, pledged to pay one per cent of the company's income to the local population of Irian Jaya, which would work out to around us $17.6 million a year. Then in late April, the company received some good news from two fronts: first, the us Overseas Private Investment Corporation (opic), which had withdrawn insurance cover last year from the company on the grounds that the waste from the mine was degrading rainforests in the region, agreed to reinstate the us $100 million insurance cover till the end of this year. Another breather was provided by an audit conducted by Dame & Moore, the American environmental consultancy agency at the behest of Freeport which had been, in turn, prodded by the Indonesian authorities.

The report concluded that Freeport Indonesia had made considerable efforts towards improving environmental management at its Grasberg mine in Irian Jaya. "We are confident that this report will correct a lot of the misinformation,' said a confident Paul Murphy, Freeport Indonesia's executive vice president.
Misinformation? But the company has not got off the hook. The auditors also note that until recently, when the exploitation of the Grasberg deposits started, Freeport Indonesia was "slow to meet its environmental challenges, adopting a reactive rather than proactive response'. At the heart of the criticisms levelled at the company is the disposal of tailings from the mine into rivers