Protesters want Freeport to stop operation in Papua

UNDERMINING THE MINE: Protesters denounce U.S. gold mining giant Freeport during a protest outside its offices in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Monday. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Protesters want Freeport to stop operation in Papua -------- The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Jayapura -------- Police used a water cannon and fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered in Jakarta on Monday to denounce U.S. gold mining giant Freeport, saying its mine in Papua province had brought no benefits to local residents. In the rally outside the offices of the Indonesian unit of U.S. company Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc., 500 protesters smashed the ground-floor windows of the Plaza 89 office building in Kuningan, South Jakarta, but none reached Freeport's offices on the fifth and seventh floors. A policeman and a protester were hurt during the rally, a Reuters photographer on the scene said. "Close Freeport! Close Freeport!" chanted the protesters, who briefly clashed with police before authorities brought in the water cannon, AP reported. Authorities succeeded in calming the protesters, who responded by sitting cross-legged in front of the high-rise building, but still refused to leave. Meanwhile, in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, some 500 students marched from Cendrawasih University to the provincial council building Monday, demanding the provincial administration stop Freeport's operations. The students also demanded the release of Papuan students held after they vandalized Plaza 89 on Thursday. The detained Papuan students went on a predawn rampage inside the building Thursday, setting fire to a travel agency on the ground floor. There were no casualties in the incident. Responding to the protesters' demand, the chairman of the council's human rights commission, Yance Kayame, said the administration and the council did not have the authority to stop Freeport's operation; only the central government had such power. He said the council could only issue recommendations to the House of Representatives. "We support the students' aspirations, but the Papua provincial council can only issue a recommendation on the matter to be delivered to the House of Representatives." In the town of Timika, near the Grasberg mine operated by Freeport, about 100 protesters staged a rally but did not disrupt mining operations, which resumed Saturday afternoon after being suspended last week following protests outside the mine. The Grasberg mine -- the largest gold mine in the world and the third largest copper mine, which opened in 1973 -- has long had an uneasy relationship with locals, some of whom are desperately poor and argue that they should be able to retrieve and sell tiny amounts of gold and copper from waste rock dumped by the mine, AP reported. Freeport says the practice is illegal and dangerous. Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, Usman Hamid, said earlier the regional government and legislators were partly to blame for the frequent disputes between locals and the mining company, because they had not striven to overcome misunderstandings between the communities.