TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Imperiled Riches—Threatened Rainforests
Case Study: the Freeport Mine, Irian Jaya, IndonesiaFreeport-McMoRan, based in New Orleans, has operated the Mount Ertsberg gold, silver, and copper mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, for over 20 years and has converted the mountain into a 600-meter hole. As documented by the New York Times and dozens of environmental groups, the mining company has dumped appalling amounts of waste into local streams, rendering downstream waterways and wetlands "unsuitable for aquatic life." Relying on large payments to military officials, the mining operation is protected by a virtual private army that has been implicated in the deaths of an estimated 160 people between 1975 and 1997 in the mine area.
Freeport estimates that it generates 700,000 tons of waste a day and that the waste rock stored in the highlands—900 feet deep in places—now covers about three square miles. Government surveys have found that tailings from the mines have produced levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared from nearly 90 square miles of wetlands downstream from the operation.
Cracking down on the Freeport's environmental abuses and questionable human-rights practices has proved a challenge since the mine is one of the largest sources of revenue for the Indonesian government. An Indonesian government scientist wrote that "the mine's production was so huge, and regulatory tools so weak, that it was like 'painting on clouds' to persuade Freeport to comply with the ministry's requests to reduce environmental damage," according to a December 27, 2005, article in the New York Times.
For more take a look at "Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste" in the New York Times. The article was written by JANE PERLEZ and RAYMOND BONNER.
Continued: Economic Restructuring