Every year, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. dumps tens of millions of tons of mining waste into the Ajkwa River system in Indonesia. The company has been doing it for decades, and is demanding the right to keep at it for decades to come.
The discharge of what are called tailings, the leftovers of mineral extraction, is perfectly legal under Freeport’s current contract with the government. But recently, after more than a year of tense negotiations over the terms of a new deal, Indonesia suddenly changed the rules: The Grasberg mine in the highlands of Papua province would have to operate by heightened standards.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really, considering most every other miner in the world has been forced or has elected to stop discarding tailings in rivers.
Freeport, though, has said that won’t happen at Grasberg. Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson has been blunt about it. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he said in April.
“You simply can’t say 20 years later ‘we’re going to change the whole structure’.” Grasberg’s waste management, he added, has “always been controversial.” The tailings tussle is the latest twist in the complicated relationship between the mining giant and the Southeast Asian republic.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-05/giant-waste-spewing-mine-turns-into-battleground-in-indonesia