Death and destruction caused by mining in West Papua, but Rio Tinto denies responsibility
In 1969, Indonesia annexed West Papua. One of the reasons it did so was the existence of enormous copper and gold deposits in the mountains. In order to get the minerals out of the ground, US company Freeport McMoRan was allowed to construct the vast open-pit Ertsberg mine and subsequently the Grasberg mine, which is still operating. Because of the high rainfall, the rugged terrain and the seismic activity, Freeport avoided the usual techniques of waste disposal, involving retaining wastes in enormous piles or under water behind dams, and simply threw its tailings (fine wastes) into the local river system instead, causing grave environmental damage and destroying local livelihoods. In order to keep the mine working in the face of opposition from the people of West Papua, the area around the mine was militarised. Military control has resulted in multiple human rights abuses, including many killings.