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End of an era: Closure of sacred Ertsberg mine leaves legacy of environmental concerns

14 March 2024
Ertsberg mine - The Ertsberg mountain of your history is now a hole and Wilson Lake - Jubi/Grasberg George A Mealey

Jayapura, Jubi – In March 1973, then President of Indonesia Soeharto, accompanied by the Governor of Irian Jaya Frans Kaisiepo and the Director of Freeport Minerals, officially inaugurated the Ertsberg mine for the first time. This mountain was excavated for copper concentrate to be exported from Nemangkawi abroad.
The mining material, in the form of concentrate, was conveyed from Nemangkawi through pipes to the Port Side harbor and transported by ships to foreign destinations for export. The Amungme people themselves refer to Ertsberg Mountain as Yelsegel-Ongopsegel because of its gleaming appearance, akin to the shining feathers of a Bird of Paradise.

“Mountain birds still exist in Nemangkawi until now because for the Amungme people, ‘Yelsegel-Ongopsegel’ or Ertsberg is a sacred place for our people since ancient times. It is believed that the spirits of our ancestors would stop there before ascending to eternal heaven,” said John Magal, Chairman of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of the Amungme Tribe (Lemasa), to Jubi in Timika, last week.

According to John Magal, when the first bore penetrated the sacred mountain, elders recounted that there was a great light emanating from Ertsberg towards the east of Nemangkawi. “They (the elders) recounted that the spirits of our ancestors had left the sacred mountain,” he said.

“The sacred mountain, by the end of 1972, had all roads built, cable cars smoothly operating, and pipeline routes well installed. In December 1972, the first 10,000 tons of Ertsberg ore were successfully shipped to Japan. The mine was operating smoothly and proudly,” wrote George A Mealey in his book titled Grasberg: Mining the richest and most remote deposit of copper and gold in the world, in the mountains of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

Furthermore, Mealey, who is also the Mine Development Manager of Freeport, wrote that three months later, President Soeharto arrived, and with a jeep, he drove up to the “copper town” he named Tembagapura and inaugurated the mine. “Unexpectedly, he also renamed West Irian Province to Irian Jaya Province,” Mealey wrote in his book on page 106 of the 384-page book.

He acknowledged that despite growing up in Alaska, USA, to him, the mountains in Irian Jaya were the steepest mountains he has ever seen, and even more impressive is that there was copper mineralization everywhere.

At that time there were no policies regarding Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Freeport’s EIA was only conducted in 1997 after the Erstberg mine ended in the 1980s and closed in 1988. In practice, the Erstberg mine operated from December 1972 to 1988 until the copper concentrate dwindled and it was finally closed.

The second mine at Mount Grasberg, or what the Amungme people call Tenogoma or grassy mountain, began exporting concentrate in 1988, and since then, the first EIA was conducted in 1997.

Grasberg to underground mining

Since the Ertsberg mine began to decline from the 1980s until it closed in 1988, Freeport began digging the second mountain, Grasberg, also known as Tenogoma, for open-pit mining.

“I began describing Grasberg to financial advisors as a ‘porphyry copper-gold deposit,’ where copper and gold production could be expected, and possibly silver too. I noted that the geological structure of Grasberg resembled that of Ok Tedi, a porphyry copper-gold deposit being mined in Papua New Guinea. The Freeport team also visited there. Ok Tedi received widespread publicity at the time because of its rich surface gold capping deposit,” Mealey wrote in his book.

Thus, Mealey continued, Grasberg is referred to as a “potential porphyry deposit.” It is said that Grasberg is the world’s largest gold reserve and the third-largest copper reserve. “Grasberg is the most significant mineral reserve discovery of this century,” said George A Mealey.

Now, the Indonesian government’s downstream program has built a smelter plant in Gresik, and practically all mining minerals from the Central Papua Mountains are excavated in underground mines and transported by ship to Surabaya and Gresik.

Antara News mentions that Phase II of the Gresik Smelter is still being pursued to be completed by May 2024. The operation of the Freeport Gresik Smelter will enhance Indonesia’s downstream efforts. As a result, there is added value that the country and all aspects involved can benefit from.

Now, after the closure of the Ertsberg mine, what remains is a mountain with a hole thousands of meters high. The former excavation is now a hollowed lake named Lake Wilson. The name is given to commemorate Freeport’s 1960 expedition leader, Forbes Wilson. (*)

Colombia vows to put nature at the heart of global environmental negotiations

The environment minister Susana Muhamad says nature is a ‘pillar’ of fighting the climate crisis

The next round of global biodiversity negotiations will put nature at the heart of the international environment agenda, Colombia’s environment minister has said, as the country prepares for the Cop16 summit.

Susana Muhamad, Colombia’s environment minister, who is expected to be the Cop16 president, said the South American country would use the summit to ensure nature was a key part of the global environmental agenda in the year building up to the climate Cop30 in the Brazilian Amazon in 2025, where countries will present new plans on how they will meet the Paris agreement.

“Although the climate is affecting biodiversity, nature is an answer to the climate crisis. It is not the only answer but it is a very important pillar and we want to position it very strongly to build towards Cop30 in Brazil,” Muhamad told the Guardian.

“We need to create the momentum and the role of Cop16 is to make nature a pillar of those discussions,” she said. “I think sometimes we divide the international environmental agenda into many issues … [but] we need to concentrate. For example, saving the Amazon is a practical and tangible action. The creation of multinational marine protected areas is a tangible action that has results for the climate and biodiversity.”

Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, has named Cali as the host city for Cop16 in October – the first biodiversity summit since a historic UN deal was made to halt the rampant loss of biodiversity, in Montreal, Canada at the end of 2022.

Read further details here

Nearly 15% of Americans don’t believe climate change is real, study finds

Denialism highest in central and southern US, with Republican voters less likely to believe in climate science

Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian 
Wed 14 Feb 2024 18.47 GMT
Nearly 15% of Americans don’t believe climate change is real, a new study out of the University of Michigan reveals – shedding light on the highly polarized attitude toward global warming.

Additionally, denialism is highest in the central and southern US, with Republican voters found less likely to believe in climate science.

Using artificial intelligence, researchers analyzed over 7.4m tweets posted by roughly 1.3 million people on the social media platform X (previously Twitter) between 2017 and 2019. The social media posts were geocoded, and classified as “for” or “against” climate change using a large language model, a type of artificial intelligence developed by OpenAI.

“Over half of the tweets we looked at simply denied that climate change was real, that it was a hoax,” said Joshua Newell, co-author of the study and professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan. “It wasn’t surprising but it was disappointing, I would hope that more and more Americans would believe in climate change and the importance of addressing it.”

Donald Trump emerged as one of the most influential figures among climate change deniers. His tweets around a cold snap in Texas in December 2017, as well as his missives rejecting the 2018 IPCC report released at the Cop24 UN conference, were some of his most engaged social media posts among climate change deniers.

“Public figures such as Trump are highly influential,” Newell said, “when they use these events to trigger disbelief in climate change among social media users.
The findings are consistent with similar studies, such as the recent survey out of Yale University which estimates that as of 2023, 16% of Americans do not believe in climate change (about 49 million people).

Acceptance and belief in global warming is most prevalent along the west and east coasts, correlating with those regions’ high rates of Democratic voters. Still, clusters of denialism exist within blue states, like in the case of Shasta county, California. There, disbelief in climate change is as high as 52%, but statewide, less than 12% of California’s population does not believe in global warming.

“It comports with my understanding that there is a small but very vocal and active minority of the public that still denies the overwhelming evidence of human-caused warming,” said Michael Mann, climatologist and geophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania, about the study.

Last week, Mann was awarded $1m in a defamation lawsuit against conservative writers who called his pioneering climate change research “fraudulent”, comparing it to the work of a convicted child molester. In his book The New Climate War, Mann argues that scientists have to rebut the misinformation and disinformation promoted on social media by bad actors, “not because we’re going to win them over, their ideological heels are dug in, but because they are infecting the entire social media space with myths, falsehoods and toxic anti-scientific sentiment”, Mann said.

Indigenous people are the world’s biggest conservationists, but they rarely get credit for it

More than 30 percent of the Earth is already conserved. Thank Indigenous people and local communities.

New estimates suggest that Indigenous peoples and local communities conserve at least a fifth of all land on Earth.
 The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre/ICCA Consortium

Selandia Baru akan membantu memperkuat respons iklim Pasifik

February 11, 2024 in Pasifik

Penulis: Dominggus A Mampioper - Editor: Kristianto Galuwo

Easter Chu Shing (kiri), wakil direktur jenderal SPREP, direktur jenderal SPREP Sefanaia Nawadra, Menteri Luar Negeri Selandia Baru Winston Peters, Dr Shane Reti, Menteri Kesehatan Selandia Baru dan Menteri Masyarakat Pasifik. – Jubi/rnz

Jayapura, Jubi – Pengaturan pendanaan baru untuk memperkuat ketahanan terhadap perubahan iklim di Pasifik, telah diumumkan di Samoa.

“Menteri Luar Negeri Selandia Baru Winston Peters dan direktur jenderal Sekretariat Program Lingkungan Regional (SPREP) Sefanaia Nawadra mengumumkan pendanaan baru di kantor pusat SPREP di ibu kota Samoa, Apia,” demikian dikutip Jubi dari, Minggu (11/2/2024).

Samoa menjadi perhentian terakhir delegasi Misi Pasifik Selandia Baru yang juga mengunjungi Kepulauan Cook dan Tonga.

“Selandia Baru dengan bangga mengkonfirmasi dukungan tambahan sebesar NZ$15,2 juta selama tiga tahun, untuk membantu SPREP memperkuat peran penting yang dimainkannya dalam memberikan saran dan dukungan di Pasifik,” kata Peters.

“SPREP fokus pada pembangunan ketahanan Pasifik terhadap ancaman serius yang ditimbulkan oleh perubahan iklim, dan investasi Selandia Baru akan memastikan bahwa kita dapat terus memprioritaskan hal ini,” tambahnya.

“Ini merupakan kontribusi yang signifikan untuk mendukung upaya kolektif kita, dalam memerangi dampak dari tiga tantangan yaitu perubahan iklim, hilangnya keanekaragaman hayati, dan polusi terhadap masyarakat dan komunitas Pasifik,” kata Peters.

SPREP adalah organisasi regional yang didirikan oleh Pemerintah dan Administrasi Pasifik yang bertugas melindungi dan mengelola lingkungan dan sumber daya alam Pasifik.

Kantor pusatnya berbasis di Apia, Samoa dengan kantor SPREP lainnya di Fiji, Republik Kepulauan Marshall, dan Vanuatu.

Perubahan iklim

Selama kunjungan ke Kepulauan Cook, pemerintah Selandia Baru memberikan komitmen sebesar NZ$16,5 juta ke Kepulauan Cook untuk mengatasi dampak perubahan iklim.

Peters mengumumkan komitmen pendanaan di Rarotonga (Rabu, waktu Kepulauan Cook. “Selandia Baru mendukung Kepulauan Cook dengan pendanaan sebesar NZ$16,5 juta untuk merespons secara lebih efektif terhadap meningkatnya dampak perubahan iklim,” katanya. (*)

Supreme Court stays Green Certificate issued on Aniwa


The Supreme Court has stayed a Green Certificate issued on December 15 last year over the Sura and Lafatu custom land on Aniwa, pending resolution of an appeal over the land yet to be determined.

This is part of the interim orders issued by Judge William Kenneth Hastings following an urgent ex parte application filed by the claimants, Family Tatuna Totowa and Tousi.

The applicants have filed an appeal against a declaration made by the Imasa and Sukane Joint Nakamal Land Tribunal in 2021 to the Customary Land Management Office (CLMO) on Tanna.

In their urgent application for an interlocutory order filed last week, they claimed that the Acting National Coordinator of the CLMO, John Nalwang, as the first defendant had not acted properly to issue the certificate.

They claimed there is a high conflict of interest in relation to Nalwang’s involvement and the disputes as he is also from Aniwa.

They submitted that their lawyer requested the first defendant on December last year to cancel the Green Certificate issued over Sura custom land as an appeal is yet to be determined by CLMO, but he failed to do so.

He traveled to Aniwa early this month and handed over the Green Certificate, despite the appeal lodged by the applicants and a request from the applicants’ counsel not to issue any Green Certificate over the land. In his ruling, Judge Hastings ordered Nalwang not to issue any Green Certificate for Sura and Lafatu land on Aniwa pending resolution of the appeal.

Nalwang is also restrained from being involved in any dispute over any land on the island of Aniwa whilst in his current position.

Source: VDP

Walhi Asserts Food Estate in Central Kalimantan Leads to Disaster


TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) denied the Ministry of Agriculture's claim that the food estate project in Central Kalimantan, nicknamed Bumi Tambun Bungai, was successful. On the contrary, Walhi believed that the project was actually exacerbating the ecological crisis and destroying the forest and peat ecosystems in the province.

“It has triggered forest fires and pollution,” said Bayu Herinata, Walhi's regional executive director in Central Kalimantan, in a webinar organized by the Walhi National Executive on Friday, January 26.

Bayu emphasized that the food estate project has taken away the living and farming space of the people, especially indigenous communities, who depend on forests as their source of livelihood and economy. The land, he added, converted into cassava plantations, “causes an ecological disaster.”

Amid the controversy over the food estate development following the fourth presidential debate on January 21, Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman announced on January 24 the success of the corn harvest in Gunung Mas, Central Kalimantan. 

Amran claimed that the food estate had produced 6.5 tons of corn per hectare. He said the agricultural technology adopted for the lands was accurate and as expected. 

Previously, the news that the commodity was planted on the food estate land in Central Kalimantan using polybags as planting media, instead of directly on the existing land, went viral on social media.


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