8 Jun 2006

Freeport mine in Papua on defensive over its enviromental record

3:52 pm on 8 June 2006

The Freeport McMoran copper and gold mine in the Indonesian province of Papua has been defending its environmental record after it was excluded from the Norwegian government Investment Funds because of environmental damage.

A spokesman for Freeport, Bill Collier, says it's based on a misunderstanding and that the mining company has a strong commitment to environmental protection in its mining process.

Janine Sudbury reports

"Norway has said its more than 240 billion US dollar oil fund would no longer invest in companies it said were serious and systematic abusers of human and labour rights."

The Norwegian government blames Freeport for using a natural river system for the disposal of tailings from the Grasberg mine.

But Mr Collier says the tailings from the mine are non-toxic and that Freeport does not use cyanide or mercury in the separation process.

He says the tailings sand is transported to the lowlands by one of many mountain streams and are deposited within an engineered system of levees.

He says the tailings deposit area will be revegetated with native species or agricultural crops at the end of the mine life.

Mr Collier refused to be interviewed citing the current sensitivities in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian decision comes just a month after a report sanctioned by Indonesia's House of Representatives confirmed that the Freeport mine in Papua is causing severe damage to the environment.