A Canadian company has staked a claim to one of the world’s biggest gold mines located in the West Papua territory by signing an agreement with groups seeking West Papuan independence.
The Grasberg Mine in the Indonesian province of Papua, currently owned by an assortment of firms including Freeport McMoRan and Rio Tinto, would only go to Van Gold Resources if Indonesia loses the territory.
“While the agreement is obviously not currently enforceable against those companies operating under Indonesian auspices, it may be one day,” says the company’s lawyer Dr Jonathan Levy.
Under its agreement with the West Papua Liberation Organisation (WPLO), Van Gold has negotiation rights should independence be achieved.
The intent of the agreement, Dr Levy told Pasifik News, is to make a statement that the people of West Papua are the true owners of the land and its resources, not the Indonesian occupiers.
“The multinationals that are extracting billions of dollars must one day be held accountable for their cooperation with a colonialist regime.”
The company admits they’re aware that the agreement may amount to nothing, especially given the WPLO is only one of several groups fighting for independence.
However In the scheme of things, “this is a forward looking proposition,” says Dr Levy.
“This is no more speculative than companies which are now developing asteroid mining in a serious manner.”
Meanwhile more than 1,000 West Papuans participating in a demonstration calling for independence in Indonesia's Papua region were briefly detained on Wednesday.
The protesters took to the streets in Sentani, near Papua's provincial capital Jayapura, to demand that an independent body conduct human rights investigations rather than the Indonesian government.
Media reports say the demonstrators were detained for protesting without a permit.
Papua police spokesman Patridge Renwarin says police localised the demonstrators to limit their movements, however no one was arrested.