Letter: Mining in Indonesia that doesn't hurt the environment

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The Independent Online
WE ARE deeply disturbed by Janine Roberts's report and inflammatory headline regarding our Indonesian mining operations ("UK cash props up terror mine", 26 November). Her report is most notable for its inability to separate unsubstantiated allegations from fact. We are particularly frustrated that Ms Roberts never spoke with Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold before reprinting these charges, nor shared with your readers any information about the extensive measures we have implemented to protect the environment.

Suggestions that the operation is damaging the environment are untrue. Our Indonesian operation adheres to the highest environmental standards and has received all necessary environmental permits from the Indonesian government. We have a multi-million-dollar tailings management programme to monitor water quality so that it conforms to US EPA drinking-water standards for metals. Sampling shows that aquatic life in the Ajkwa River that includes tailings is comparable to aquatic life in nearby rivers that do not have mine tailings. In addition, our operations are undergoing an independent environmental audit that will provide an unbiased assessment.

Your readers also should know that the human rights violations noted in the article continue to be addressed by the Indonesian government and the Human Rights Commission. The Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has stated in its September report on their investigation that Freeport was not involved in any of these incidents. As Mgr Munninghoff, the Catholic Bishop of Jayapura, noted in a public statement of 22 November: "My report is not a report about Freeport and does not contain accusations against Freeport". In a separate taped interview, Bishop Munninghof observed: "In my opinion, Freeport is not at all involved by these violations of human rights."

We are confident that objective inquiry will show that our Indonesian operation is a model for economic development. We have invested more than $3bn in this project, including the construction of roads, hospitals and schools for the benefit of the people of Irian Jaya. This state-of-the- art project has provded more than 17,000 jobs and a variety of economic and social benefits of which we are proud.

Thomas J Egan

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, New Orleans