The Grasberg Mine of Papua, Indonesia

As experts, community members, and activists postulate over the potential impacts of mining in Intag, whether they were included in the EIA or withheld, it is helpful to zoom out and look at other active cases of open-pit mining across the world. A mine bearing some of the strongest ecological similarities to the one addressed by the EIA Llurimangua is the Grasberg Mine in the province of Papau in Indonesia. As the largest gold mine and third largest copper mine in the world, this case study offers strong insight into the potential risks associated with mega-projects of this nature.

For example, population growth, an impact that remains unaddressed by September’s EIA, has proven to be one of the most important consequences of the economic activity created by the Grasberg Mine. After its implementation in 1973, the local population increased from less than 1,000 to between 100,000 and 110,000 by 1999, leading to land disputes and seizures between indigenous groups and mining employees. Additionally, and despite this rise in local economic activity, Papau remains the poorest province in Indonesia.

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Secondly, the environmental impacts of Grasberg have been widespread. As a result of the gradual steepening of slopes associated with open-pit mining, Grasberg has experienced a high rate of landslides. Likewise, mining activity has damaged several neighboring rivers, discharging 230,000 tons of waste rock daily into the Aghawagon River alone.

These are only a few of the factors that led to the violent uprisings of Grasberg in the 1970s and 1990s in response to mining activity in the region. In 1995, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid reported that the Indonesian army and security forces killed 37 people involved in protests over the mine.

Though these two case studies reside on opposite ends of the globe, it would be irresponsible to ignore the highly contested case of Grasberg as the potential for open-pit mining is debated over in Intag. As discussions continue over the recently published EIA and expert opinions are brought to the table, it is important to consider the long-term impacts of projects of this scale, ones that are often unanticipated in the reports preceding their construction.

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