AUCKLAND (Metro / Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand Superannuation Fund's involvement in the controversial US-owned Freeport McMoRan goldmine in West Papua, which critics say has been implicated in a long history of human rights violations by Indonesian forces, has been challenged in the latest edition of Metro magazine.
The December edition, due out this weekend, features a long-running strike at the mine and the shooting of miners in "suspicious circumstances".
"It was the latest incident in a long line of human rights abuses, not to mention ongoing environmental devastation, associated with the mine," says the magazine article.
"The fund, which is signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing (UNPRI) charter, has shares in the enterprise. Why?"
The investigative report by freelance photojournalist Karen Abplanalp says the mine is the largest taxpayer in Indonesia with an annual tax bill of $US1.4 billion.
She reports that human rights abuses as well as environmental impacts have been well-documented - long before NZSF invested in it.
West Papua 'war zone'
Abplanalp notes that in 2006 the US embassy in Wellington described West Papua in a cable as a "war zone in many places", and "it has all the makings of the next East Timor, except that this time, Jakarta will not let go".
She writes that the NZSF has less than $20 million invested in the mine and that chief executive Adrian Orr is "immensely proud" of the investment, saying they can help West Papua.
That is in spite of NZSF standards which include "no complicity in abuses".
The West Papuan crisis erupted this year when continued strikes at the mine involved more than 8000 workers, two of whom were killed by security forces. The killings happened just prior to an October 19 attack on the Papuan People's Congress in the capital Jayapura, where up to six people were reportedly killed and hundreds more detained, including the newly-elected 'President' of West Papua.
Further violence was reported last week, when another miner was shot.
Abplanalp says she became interested in the issue when attending a public talk by Indonesia Human Rights Committee spokesperson Maire Leadbeater some months ago as part of the Asia-Pacific journalism course at AUT.
"She outlined the issues with West Papua, which were quite an eye-opener, particularly with the mine," she says.
"And then when speaking to her after the talk, Leadbeater casually said that the NZSF were investors in the mine, and I thought, 'what, you can't be serious'."
Abplanalp followed up on her inquiries into the mine crisis during the Pacific Islands Forum in September, where the issue of West Papua was visible through street protests and marches, but neglected by political leaders.
Coverage on the West Papua crisis was featured in Pacific Scoop.
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