Councilor Accuses Freeport of Secretly Mining Uranium at Its Papua Site

Councilor Accuses Freeport of Secretly Mining Uranium at Its Papua Site
, 14 July 2010


A Papuan councilor has accused PT Freeport Indonesia of secretly mining uranium in the resource-rich province despite the widely held belief that Indonesia does not possess viable deposits of the strictly controlled mineral.

Yan Mandenas, a member of the Papua Legislative Council, claimed on Wednesday that Freeport had been covertly mining uranium for at least the last eight months.

“Our informers within the Freeport concession tell us that this has gone on for months,” the councilor said.

“What Freeport is doing is blatant theft, because they do not have a permit to mine uranium. They’re looting Papua’s natural wealth,” he said.

Yan added that the company had a history of mining for minerals not listed in its permit, claiming that it had illegally mined coal and other minerals at its giant Grasberg gold and copper mine since 1964.

Yan also said the council would establish a committee to inspect the mine.

“Getting the paperwork done to arrange the visit will take time, but we’ll keep pushing for an investigation into Freeport’s operations,” he said.

He conceded that even if the councilors did find evidence of covert uranium mining, they would be powerless to take action against Freeport.

“The thing is, they were granted the concession by the central government, so we call on the authorities in Jakarta to take the lead in this case by punishing Freeport for its theft,” Yan said.

He added that Freeport officials had contacted him to offer their explanation, but said he was “reluctant to meet them face-to-face.”

“If Freeport wants to clarify anything, it should be to the council, and not to an individual councilor,” he said.

Freeport, however, has denied the allegation, saying it only mines minerals for which it has already secured permits.

“PT Freeport Indonesia is a general mining company licensed to extract ores of copper, gold and silver,” spokesman Budiman Moerdijat told

Uranium is not usually found in the vicinity of copper and gold deposits.