Human Lives Human Rights: Indonesian authorities are planning to develop a sprawling gold mine the size of the city of Jakarta in Papua Province, where it risks fueling conflict and violating the land rights of Indigenous Papuans.
Intan Jaya Regency, where the gold ore deposit known as Wabu Block is located, has become a hotspot of conflict between Indonesian security forces and Papuan independence groups in recent years.
Reports show there has been an alarming build-up of security forces in the area since 2019, with 12 suspected cases of unlawful killings carried out by security forces.
Also, the Indigenous Papuans have been subjected to increasing restrictions on freedom of movement as well as routine beatings and arrests.
Residents of Intan Jaya use the proposed mining area for cultivating crops, hunting animals and collecting timber.
Disregarding the needs, desires and traditions of Indigenous Papuans, the planned development of Wabu Block risks aggravating a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation
People in Intan Jaya are living under an increasingly harsh and violent security apparatus that exerts control over many aspects of their daily lives, and now their livelihoods are under threat from this ill-conceived project.
Since at least February 2020, there have been official plans to develop mining activities in Wabu Block.
Located south of Sugapa district, the capital of Intan Jaya Regency, Wabu Block holds approximately 8.1 million ounces of gold, making it one of Indonesia’s five largest known gold reserves.
Wabu Block is currently under the licensing process of the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The proposed mining area covers 69,118 hectares – about the size of Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta.
Indigenous Papuans said they fear loss of lands and livelihood as well as environmental pollution.
“If there is mining, we will have no land for gardening; livestock will not get fresh fruit directly from the forest, and even our grandchildren will lose customary land,” Lian, a local Indigenous man said.
The government has an obligation to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Papuans likely to be affected by the mine.
However, in a climate of violence and intimidation, it is hard to imagine how such a consultation process could meet international standards.
The first step is to ascertain whether a full and effective consultation is even feasible under the existing circumstances. In the meantime, Indonesia should press pause on Wabu Block.