21 Jun 2013

West Papua activist says mine riots motivated by starvation

7:04 pm on 21 June 2013

A West Papua independence activist says the clashes and vandalism at the Freeport mine in the Indonesian province was sparked by locals who were starving.

Witnesses said about 70 people vandalised facilities at the world's biggest copper and gold mine.

Yasons Sambom says five buses were burnt along with two cars, and a 29-year-old man died of starvation.

Alex Perrottet reports.

"Early this week a crowd of local residents descended on the mine facility in the remote Papua town of Tembagapura. They set fires and destroyed vehicles. An activist, Yasons Sambom, says their motivation was that people were starving. He says the fact that the mine is not operating means people have no money or access to food and are going hungry. Mr Sambom says the residents depend on the work at the mine for a living and it has been closed for weeks due to the tunnel collapse on May 14 that killed 28 workers. He says a man named Jemi Beanal died last Tuesday of starvation, and something needs to be done urgently. The government says their report into the disaster could be completed this weekend. Several of the vandals were arrested and taken into the custody of the Tembagapura Police, and it's still not known how much damage was sustained by the mine company."