The Amungme, Kamoro & Freeport: How Indigenous Papuans Have Resisted the World’s Largest Gold and Copper Mine

This article considers the ways that indigenous populations can and do resist the exploitative practices of TNCs supported by developing governments.  The Freeport Company – a US-based mining corporation – seized and controlled numerous Kamoro and Amungme lands with the blessing of the Dutch colonial authority in Papua shortly after their arrival in 1967.  The explosion of population by Javanese settlers from Indonesia, traders from the island of Sulawesi and Papuans from other areas have drastically marginalized the native Amungme and Kamoro peoples.  In response, the indigenous inhabitants of the region have put into practice numerous non-violent strategies and tactics that are “grounded in strong community organizing.”

Tracing the pretext for the current situation, the author highlights how capitalist, consumer-oriented systems often don’t jive well with indigenous communal systems predicated on a shared social responsibility for one another and the broader environment.  Additionally, because the majority of native Papuans in the area don’t participate in a market economy most of the profits from TNC ventures are siphoned off-shore making infrastructural development next to impossible; furthermore, the article also highlights the cozy relationship between Freeport-as-TNC and the Indonesian government by describing how Freeport offered logistical and military support for the Indonesian military in order to secure more lands for mining operations.  In the rare case that Freeport does funnel some revenues to the indigenous communities, the $ usually comes with numerous strings attached that encourage a welfare mentality drawing tribal dependency on Freeport even tighter.

This piece highlights numerous questions:  What is sustainable development? Who lays claim to land? What role does the nation-state play in regionalisms? What role do TNCs play in development and extraction schemes? Who is regulating TNCs in developing nations? What does “self-determination” really mean?

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