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Papuan villagers near Freeport mine conflict zone are 'safe' despite unrest

Sydney Morning Herald - November 12, 2017

Amilia Rosa and Jewel Topsfield, Timika, Papua A community leader from one of the villages caught up in a conflict inside Papua's giant mining area has insisted that all villagers are safe.

Authorities had claimed an "armed criminal group" was preventing villagers from entering or leaving two villages in the mining area of Tembagapura, with military chief Gatot Nurmantyo at one point even suggesting they were "holding civilians hostage".

"I would like to stress we are not being held hostage," Jonathan Kibak, a community leader from the village of Banti, told Fairfax Media. "No one in the village is being stopped from doing daily activities."

Banti and another village, Kembeli, are located in an area where the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN) are clashing with security forces in a dispute over the massive Freeport gold and copper mine.

The dispute is part of the long-running pro-independence movement in Indonesia's restive, easternmost province of Papua.

The group sees the lucrative Grasberg mine as the primary reason why Indonesia acquired Papua, after a widely discredited ballot for independence in which only a handful of the local population were allowed to vote.

The mine is majority owned by US mining giant Freeport McMoRan, Indonesia's largest taxpayer.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/papuan-villagers-near-freeport-mine-conflict-zone-are-safe-despite-unrest-20171112-gzjpn1.html.

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