In return, Indonesian military and police forces have been on hand in the province, and within the company's immense 6.42 million-acre work area, to provide security. Freeport does have its own security force for internal security, but Indonesian law forbids them to carry guns.
Controversially, Freeport makes its facilities available to Indonesian military forces in the remote province, including providing logistical support, food, shelter and transportation. And the company pays an undisclosed amount of money each year to Indonesian military and police forces that give it protection in the province, company officials say.
Concern About the Relationship
"It's our feeling that they shouldn't be using the Indonesian military to provide security there," says Kurt Biddle, Washington Coordinator for the Indonesian Human Rights Network.
Not just NGOs are concerned. The House of Representatives in May, passed legislation recommending Jakarta pull all "nonorganic" military forces out of the province and allow international human rights and environmental monitors access to Freeport's facilities. The Senate has not acted on the bill.
The House language expressed "deep concern over ongoing human rights violations committed by Indonesian military and police forces against civilians in West Papua?"
Amnesty International has criticized the repression of pro-independence groups there and elsewhere. "The Indonesian police and military are continuing to commit serious human rights violations, including torture and unlawful killings, particularly in the provinces of Aceh and Papua (Irian Jaya) where pro-independence movements are active," it said in a September statement.
History of Abuses
In the mid-1990s, Indonesian forces committed abuses in or near the Freeport facilities, according to NGO reports. An investigation by Irian Jaya-based churches found prior to 1998 Indonesian forces committed extra-judicial killings, and burned 13 churches and 166 homes and other structures.
A report by the Washington-based Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy later documented claims of sexual slavery and other sexual violence against local women and girls by the Indonesian military in the same villages.
It also reported claims that two women were tortured by forces, with the use of Freeport mining company equipment and assistance from Freeport personnel.
Freeport, on its Web site, says it cooperated fully with all abuse investigations and not one of them determined it or any of its employees participated in any human rights violations. At least five investigations into alleged human rights abuses in Irian Jaya, it said, including by the Red Cross, and the U.S. and Australian embassies found no evidence of company or employee wrongdoing, the site says.
"In those instances involving PT-FI property or equipment, it was determined that they were not under PT-FI's control at the time," it says.
Violence Over Independence
Indonesian police and military forces, and militias organized by the military, also have been engaged in stomping down a persistent, sometimes violent Papuan independence movement.
Last year, three West Papuans were killed and up to 30 were arrested when police attempted to disburse a demonstration involving raising pro-independence flags. The arrested were charged with acts of rebellion and other crimes. Rights groups say the Papuans were brutally beaten and tortured.