Papua Tribe Asserts Right to Sue Mining Giant

Papua Tribe Asserts Right to Sue Mining Giant

, 13 October 2010


A Papuan tribe fighting over its customary rights to land in court against US mining giant Freeport McMoRan on Monday dismissed an intervention lawsuit filed by several clans in the tribe as invalid.

Papua’s Amungme tribe in March filed a lawsuit at the South Jakarta District Court against the miner’s local unit, Freeport Indonesia, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the Papua governor, demanding that Freeport pay $2.5 billion in material damages and $30 billion in non-material damages for the 2.6 million hectares of tribal land used by the mine in Timika, Mimika district.

The tribe claims the land was illegally acquired.

However, on June 22, a group of 30 members drawn from other clans within the tribe — the Omaleng, Bukaleng, Beanal, Omabak, and Jamang — filed an intervention lawsuit which stated that they were opposed to the initial legal action.

“Their [intervention] lawsuit was intended to block our legal process but this lawsuit actually has no basis because only the rightful owner of the customary lands that we are fighting for now belong to the Natkime clan,” said Titus Natkime, the clan’s representative, adding that the lawsuit against the company was for areas located in the Grasberg mountains and the Tembagapura subdistrict.

“The other clans, as far as I know, have been very supportive of the lawsuit,” he said. “They [the other clans] are also against the company because they felt the negative impacts of the waste management and there is no welfare for them.”

However, he added, the lawsuit for compensation over customary lands can only be filed by the Natkime clan because they owned the lands.

“They are welcome to support the action but they have no rights to file compensation claims because it’s not their lands,” he said.

Martinus Natkime, one of 30 signatories, said he had been tricked to sign as he was told the new lawsuit was over human rights and environmental degradation.

“We were told by Markus [Bugaleng, coordinator of signature collection], that we were going to file a lawsuit against the company over environmental degradation, waste management, human rights, customary lands, human resources and the issue of getting 1 percent of the company’s gross income,” he said, adding that instead, the signatures were used to counter Titus’s lawsuit.

Titus said that five clan elders have already signed a statement to be presented in court today, stating that they were tricked to sign the lawsuit and that they fully supported the tribe’s case.