Archived press release
Press & Media

Rio Tinto, the world's biggest mining company, will come under attack at its annual general meeting today for human rights abuses and environmental destruction linked to its operations in Indonesia. The allegations are outlined in a new report from Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), "Undermining Indonesia", launched today, which investigates the impacts of four of Rio Tinto's most controversial mining operations.

A representative from Friends of the Earth will be raising WALHI's concerns with Rio Tinto's directors at the AGM, particularly the failure of Rio Tinto to address the needs of the local community at the Kelian Gold Mine, in East Kalimantan.

The mine, which caused controversy in the early 1990s when thousands of people were forced to move from their land by the state security forces at gunpoint, is due to close in 2004. But negotiations over the closure of the mine with the local community have broken down after the local community organisation pulled out. The organisation say its demands for proper compensation have not been met by the company and it has not even been provided with information necessary to pursue its claim.

The community are still waiting for a full public apology from Rio Tinto following the National Commission on Human Rights findings that some staff at the mine were responsible for sexually abusing and raping members of the community during the mid 1990s.

The report also includes criticisms of Rio Tinto's activities at the Grasberg Gold Mine, West Papua, the world's biggest gold mine. Rio Tinto has a 40% stake in a joint venture expansion of the mine. Several hundred thousand tonnes of mine tailings are tipped directly into the Aghawagon River every day. Satellite analysis shows that tailings have contaminated the Lorentz National park, a World Heritage Site, and have polluted the sea bed 10km out to sea. The mine is also associated with human rights abuses by Indonesian state authorities.

Friends of the Earth Corporates Campaigner Ed Matthew said:

"Rio Tinto has an abysmal environmental and human rights record in Indonesia, but UK company law allows them to get away with it. The British Government must change company law to ensure the directors of irresponsible corporations like Rio Tinto are made fully liable and accountable for their destructive impacts overseas. Only then will they take their responsibilities seriously."

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust