5 May 2006

Papuan refugee speaks at Rio Tinto AGM

11:39 am on 5 May 2006

One of the 42 Papuans recently given asylum in Australia has told Rio Tinto shareholders about the damaging impact from the controversial Freeport mine in Papua.

Those at Rio Tinto's annual general meeting in Melbourne yesterday were forced to debate the impact of the mine, when the Mineral Policy Institute joined with Papuan independence activists and some shareholders to mount a protest over the mine.

Rio Tinto holds a 40% investment in Freeport's Grasberg gold and copper deposit in Papua.

Herman Wanggai, spokesperson for the Papuan asylum seekers who arrived in Australia in January, spoke at the meeting as a proxy shareholder.

The Freeport mine has been the subject of widespread protests in Papua and Indonesia because of its environmental and human rights record.

Mr Wanggai told the AGM that Freeport is contributing to the suffering in Papua because it funds the Indonesian government and military.

He says because of this, the mine is directly linked to the human rights problems.