The Effects of Mining in West Papua

The Effects of Mining in WestPapua

Although the Freeport’s Grasberg Mine is the biggest and mostdynamic excavation in the world, the local people have not benefitedsubstantially from the mine. In this regards, the indigenous peoplei.e. Amungme and Kamoro have had trouble as manifest of the aspectsof the mine. This has necessitated the evaluation of critical ethicalissues regarding the Freeport Company and its treatment of the localpeople. The mining of copper in the region has proved environmentallyexpensive, morally skewed, and profit instigated thus, thegovernment and the company have failed to cultivate a comprehensive,socially and environmentally responsible process, and effectiveprocesses to include the local people. As such, the displacement ofthe indigenous people is a significant discourse in regards to ethicsand human development.

Displacing Amungme and Kamaro at Grasberg is the central ethicalissue to be resolved because they have the right to considerstrategies and priorities for their land use and development. Inaddition, displacement contributes to a lot property damages and lossof life. According to Reidenbach and Robin, indigenous people havethe right for government free consent before approval of any projectsinterfering with the resources, land, and territories (50). This ismainly in regards to exploitation of water, minerals, or any othernatural resources. Indigenous individuals are entitled to fair andjust compensation for such measures and actions undertaken toalleviate adverse social, political, economic, and environmentalresults. The excavation of copper in the region means that somepeople will be forced to leave their homes thus, the company shouldcompensate these families socially, emotionally, and economically.Here, displacement of paper is the predominant issue since all otherissues hinges on human development and considering that the projecthas made headways, then the psychological, social, and economicaspects that surround human development becomes important benchmark.


Act utilitarianism and its connection to the case

Kyriakakis asserts that Freeport has violated some basic lawsgoverning the principles of displacement and compensation (99). Here,the focus turns on the actions of Freeport in failing to offer acomprehensive resource plan for displaced people. In addition, thefailure of the company to institute a committee to deal with theissues arising from displacement of people is a good manifest thatthe company has overlooked human development. Kyriakakis says that indisplacing the locals, the company also committed other socialwrongdoings where most organizations have accused Freeport ofindulging in extreme human rights violations via the operations ofits subsidiary company, PT Freeport Indonesia (101). Persistentaccusations surround the activities of the company and its affiliatesinvolving violence carried out by the private guards and militaryforces in the mining area against local groups.

Reidenbach and Robin assert that utilitarianism supports the notionthat people should do the action that gives rise to the good for thelargest number of individuals (45). Here, people should commit toactions based on the need, and reflect on the action thereafterthus, rank acts according to their total utility. The FreeportCompany and the government seem to have followed the actutilitarianism in instituting the project. The government grantsFreeport the right to mine copper because it will earn a huge amountof revenue by taxing copper mining. The revenue will benefit thewhole country but at the expense of local groups hence, allowingcopper mining leads to a general good for majority. In addition, thecountry will export the mined copper to other countries, earn revenueand increase its balance of trade, but such a project should followan ethical and social approach. Converge claims that the project hasdisplaced many people in the area, but the government and the companyhave done little to change the situation. In this regards, the focusis to the majority of the people and disregard of minority’svoices thus, the theory helps to consider the majority.

As such, the government and the company have disregarded the rightsof the local people and commenced on the process of mining, as itwill benefit majority of people. However, such a process foregoes therights of people for some beneficial details that the local peoplewill not necessarily have. The company and the government usesintimidation and repression, dumps wastage, but continues to mine inthe area as it will benefit majority of people, but morally andecologically, the act is wrong. Woodard contends that utilitarianismdefines a person’s work as morally right if the person’s actiongenerates at least as much pleasure as any other action the personmight have performed at the time (247). In this regards, the act ofdisplacing the indigenous people is not morally right is it does nothold the Act Utilitarianism. In this regards, the government and thecompany should have found an excellent area to settle the displacedpeople and then compensate them economically and substantially sincesuch an action would have produced much happiness to the people, asmining copper generates happiness to the government and the company.

KantianDeontology and displacement of people

Woodward defines Kantian deontology as a normative moral positionthat adjudicates the principles of an action grounded on the action’sobservance to a regulation or certain rules (246). Likewise,Reidenbach and Robin explain Kantian deontology as a principleconcerned with what people commit rather than the consequences oftheir acts (45). As such, people should commit a right thing since itis the right thing to do and they should avoid wrong things and nevercommit them. In this regards, rules bind a person to an obligationthus, the action is more significant than its significance. Accordingto Woodward, Kant argued that the motives of an individual whocarries out an action make an action wrong and right and people actin a moral way only if they act from duty (251). As such, thegovernment and the company should act in respect to the followingprinciples

• Act in regards to the truism by which they can desire it woulddevelop into a collective law

• Act in a way that treats humanity not just as a means, but also asan end of an action

• Act as if they were through their maxim legislating member

Based on this premise, the government and the company act out of anobligation i.e. the government has a duty to spur economic growth tothe majority of the people thus, the act of mining is an act ofduty. On the other hand, one should look at the motives of thegovernment and Freeport in commencing mining. The outcome of anaction is not important, but the motive of the person commissioningan act is the most significant act thus, the government and thecompany have a right to initiate the project. However, such an actshould take into consideration the rights of the local people. Basedon the suggestion of the principle, the government and the companyhave not committed a right thing, as it is wrong to displace peopleand fail to compensate them handsomely. In this regards, thegovernment and Freeport do not have a good motive for the localpeople, as they have not initiated a good cause to compensate thelocal people, institute programs to preserve the environment, andembark on a program that include the local people in the miningprocess.

Evans, Goodman, and Lansbury explain that to the Kamoro and Amungme,the environment is people’s ‘mother,` for them implying thathuman characters are paramount elements parts of the environment(102). Hence, the government and the company have a responsibility toalign the local people to the desired environment. In fact, thecompany hardly acknowledges the unique connection of indigenousindividuals to the surroundings. Freeport Company is not honestenough to accept the damages it has caused to the environment andindigenous people. The displacement and damages inflicted by thiscompany have affected local people emotionally and economicallythus, the actions of the company and the government do not constitutemoral right. At the same time, Freeport oppresses any action taken bylocal people peacefully to air their grievances regarding theirdisplacement and environment damages. Here, Evans, Goodman, andLansbury assert that local people may suffer from diseases caused bypollutants, lose livelihoods, or become disturbed by environmentalpollution in the area (104). In this regards, the displacement ofpeople has other negative effects on their lives as those who cannotafford to relocate elsewhere will become landless and start doingmenial jobs in the company without reliefs and insurance covers.


Fair and just settlement and compensation for local people are thecentral ethical options that one considers in the case. Kyriakakisasserts that unfair settlement and lack of compensation havecontributed to a number of problems among the stakeholdersaforementioned thus, they affect the stakeholders significantly(104). The locals face serious threats if they protest against coppermining due to the beneficial aspect of the project to the company andthe government, yet they have been displaced from their homes andreceived very little to support their livelihoods. On the other hand,Kyriakakis argues that the region around Grasberg is the mostmilitarized area in the country with the media reporting numerousnumber of rape, murder, and torture cases. For example, the regionhas experienced the losses of more than 10,000 lives, although itgenerates considerably huge amounts of revenue to the country’sGDP. As such, considering the contribution of the region to theeconomy of the country, the government should have institutedprograms to help the local people, engage them in productivity, andforce the company through sensible legislations to have a number ofjob positions for local people. To avoid these problems and abuses ofhuman right, the company’s management and the government should actas rational thinkers and compensate the local people fairly based onthe profits gained, the contribution of the local people to theproject. For example, they should initiate SCR programs in thecountry that tend to promote peace and security, ecologicalpreservation, and training facilities to train the locals for futurelabor engagements in the company.

The company has also led to environmental degradation, making ithard for the local people to earn their living in an ecologicallysafe place hence, better settlement could earn both the company andthe government respect and promote peace among the locals. Justcompensation and settlement for natives ensure that they receivecompensation for giving up their rights for the land in an impartialmanner without undue influence. Here, the government needs toinitiate regulations to oversee the mining projects of the company toavoid further degradation of the environment. In fact, suchlegislations should incline towards preserving the environment byensuring that the company uses environmental friendly means ofproduction. In addition, the government should involve the localpeople in legislating rules that tend toward coordination of servicesamong the stakeholders.

Unfair settlement and compensation for local people can lead to localpeople demanding more from the government and the company. Inaddition, Converge asserts that the locals can provoke the governmentand the company to compensate them beyond the values of their land byforming militarized groups. Here, the government and the company haveundertaken to coerce the locals by offering them unfair compensationthrough repressive mechanisms to prohibit them from asking for morecompensation or refusing to vacate their homes. Evans, Goodman, andLansbury assert that the locals can request the government to allowthem more time citing plans and laws that govern displacement ofpeople, which might have delayed the project (107). As such, thecompany and the government have displaced the people, but failed toinstitute plans to compensate the people for economic reasons.

Fair settlement and compensation for local people, on the other hand,can promote peace in the region and allow the local people to feelcontented thus, accomplishment of the Kantian deontology by thegovernment and the company. Here, the local individuals will respectthe company and the government and fail to take part in protests.However, the government failed to have free consent with the localgroups knowing that they will raise demands that the company andgovernment will not adhere. In addition, the company claims to havecarried its duties following the agreement they signed with thegovernment. In the eyes of public domain, one can see that thecompany is executing its duties unfairly therefore, unfair treatmentand compensation is a justified act to deliver huge amount of good tothe biggest number of people in the religion.


Displacing Amungme and Kamaro at Grasberg is central to the successof the project, but the local people have the right to considerstrategies and priorities for their land use and development. Inaddition, displacement contributes to a lot property damages and lossof life. The project advances several issues to the local people inregards thus, the company has a duty to institute measures thatensure the protection of the local people and the environment. On theother hand, several ethical issues arise i.e. whether it is right todisplace the local people, whether the government has the right togenerate sizable revenue from the mine, and whether the governmenthas the right to grant permission to Freeport without consultinglocals. Other issues include the right to put more energies in coppermining vis-a-vis ecological preservation and whether it is right forFreeport to share 1% of profits earned with the indigenous people.Many researchers and human rights protest vehemently when companiesabuse the dignity of people like in this case, but it is alsoimportant to consider the feelings and opinions of otherstakeholders. In this regards, act utilitarianism and Kantiandeontology helps to provide an excellent argument and counterargumenton the issues raised. As such, the brief has recognized the issuesthat promote interconnection in such a process by harmonizingshareholders’ aspects.

Works Cited

Converge. &quotSpeak out for West Papua.&quot speak out for WestPapua. Converge, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.&lt

Evans, Geoff, James Goodman, and Nina Lansbury. Moving mountains:communities confront mining and globalisation. London: Zed Books,2002. Print.

Kyriakakis, Joanna. Freeport in West Papua: bringing Corporationsto Account for International Human Rights Abuses under AustralianCriminal and Tort Law. Melbourne: Monash University, 2005. Print.

Reidenbach, R. Eric, and Donald P. Robin. &quotToward theDevelopment of a Multidimensional Scale for Improving Evaluations ofBusiness Ethics.&quot&nbspCitation Classics from the Journal ofBusiness Ethics. Springer Netherlands, 2013. 45-67.

Woodard, Christopher. &quotThe Common Structure of Kantianism andAct-Utilitarianism.&quot Utilitas 25.02 (2013): 246-265.