by Catherine Delahunty
Yesterday the New Zealand Superfund decided to stop investing in several companies for ethical reasons. One of those companies is the mining giant Freeport McMoran who owns the huge and damaging gold and copper mines in West Papua highlands near Timika. The human rights issues associated with Freeport have finally been recognised by the Superfund. The Greens have been calling for divestment since 2008 and Norway divested in 2006. We celebrate this change of heart by the Superfund and we support the good reasons for the decision.
The decision reflects the fact that Freeport and its security forces have been connected with violence and abuse of human rights and these abuses are long-term and sustained. The Freeport mines were one of the key reasons that Indonesia was very keen to gain and maintain control of West Papua when the Dutch Government withdrew. The Dutch were supporting independence for West Papua but the United Nations colluded with Indonesia so that the vast profits of Freeport could flow into USA and the taxes could flow to the Indonesian Government.
Ever since the 1960s Freeport has been a human and environmental disaster. In addition to the violence, shocking conditions for the workers and social degradation around the mine, there has been vast environmental pollution. Tailings have been dumped in the rivers and communities have been made sick from toxic waste. The area is often dangerous for civilians and a number of deaths in unexplained circumstances have occurred close to the mine. In recognising the unacceptable human rights situation the NZ Superfund has shown leadership on the issue and even though it was a small investment of $2 million it sanctioned a company which is far from ethical.
The Green Party now calls up on the Superfund to consider divesting from the lesser shareholder of over 40% in the Freeport McMoran Mine, Rio Tinto. Currently the Superfund has $15.6 million invested in Rio Tinto and Rio Tinto is a major player in Freeport with a 40% stake. We want every bit of our funds out of Freeport McMoran just as we want Indonesia to start negotiating peace in West Papua. The Superfund decision has given us new hope that an end to human rights abuses and injustice in West Papua can be achieved by neighbours acting to support their rights.