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The Facts

West Papua

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West Papua / FACTS & FIGURES

West Papua: The Facts
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West Papua combined with Papua New Guinea comprise the second largest island in the world after Greenland.

Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975, adopting a Westminster-style parliament.

The information from Indonesia often differs
from that from West Papuans. Where there are
discrepancies, the Indonesian version is given first,
then the West Papuan version in brackets.

Photo: Paul Kingsnorth Name: Papua, formerly Irian Jaya (West Papua).

People: Total population: 2.1 million (2.5 million). Indigenous: 1.3 million (1.5 million). Migrants and transmigrants born in other parts of Indonesia: 350,000 (850,000).

Health: Infant mortality: 49 deaths per 1,000 live births (70-200 per 1,000 depending on locality) [Indonesia 35, Australia 6]. Life expectancy 64 years (40). The highland areas, where most of the indigenous population lives, are poorly serviced and therefore suffer more adverse health outcomes than the city. The 400,000 people living in the central highlands are serviced by only one hospital with 70 beds.

Language: Bahasa Indonesian, in addition to 253 tribal languages. West Papua and its neighbour, Papua New Guinea, contain 15% of all known languages.

Leader: Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri (Papua Council Leader Tom Beanal).

Government: One of 26 provinces of Indonesia. Local legislature with native Papuan upper house. This upper house has limited real power: it cannot propose legislation and has limited veto rights. Effective law-making power is retained in Jakarta where Indonesia’s parliament retains control over revenue collection and distribution, the military and the police.

Literacy: 71.5% of people aged 15 years and over.

Economy: Main resources – oil, gas, copper, wood and other natural resources. GDP: the largest contributor in 1995 was mining – 53.74%, followed by construction – 7.05%. Main exports: copper concentrate – 89.97%, then plywood – 4.82%. Most indigenous people live in a traditional subsistence economy based on agriculture (taros, yams, cassava) and the breeding of animals.

Income distribution: GDP per capita: $450.

Geography: 421,918 km2. Comprises 21% of the total land mass of Indonesia, but is home to only 1% of its population.

Sources: US Department of State; World Health Organization; CIA; Indonesian Investment Co-ordinating Board (Badan Koordinasi Penanaman Modal - BKPM); Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Australia West Papua Association; Jakarta Post; a demographer from a West Papuan University who cannot be named for fear of military reprisals.

The indigenous population in this region is opposing logging interests. There is now a large military build-up in the area to suppress this resistance. In 2001 there were 57 forest concession-holders in operation around the country and untold other forest ventures operating illegally. About 75% of West Papua is forest – now under threat from these logging operations. The rainforests within the combined West Papua/Papua New Guinea land mass are second in size only to those of the Amazon, making it ‘the lungs of Asia’.
Photo: Paul Kingsnorth
Photo: Paul Kingsnorth

British Petroleum’s Tangguh gas project at Bintuni Bay
. Launched in 1997, the project includes three gas fields in Bintuni/Berau Bay (with an estimated 14.4 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves) and a processing plant to be built on the southern side of the bay. Estimated cost of initial development phase – $2 billion
. Fields to be operated by BP under a production-sharing contract with Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina
. Proposed customer: China, buying up to 3 million tonnes per year for at least 20 years. Supply through a pipeline that is still to be constructed
. Planned production start-up date: 2006. Expected contribution to West Papua when it reaches peak production in 2015: $200 million
. 5,000 workers to be employed during construction phase (due to begin this year) falling to 350 permanent operating employees
. Area has largest remaining mangroves in SE Asia. Gas plant to be located in 600 hectares of rainforest. Over 500 villagers to be moved to a new location 3.5 km to the west.

Sources: Down to Earth ‘BP’s Tangguh gas project, Bintuni Bay, West Papua – briefing sheet’ (London, 2001); John McBeth ‘Enlightened mining exploitation: Irian Jaya’ (Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 Dec 01-3 Jan 02).

The Baliem Valley – West Papua’s major indigenous population centre. ‘Discovered’ in 1938 when the millionaire adventurer Richard Archbold saw what he described as a ‘shangri la’. Easily the most popular tourist destination, the Valley is over a mile and a half above sea level, about 60 km long and 16 km wide, with its main town, Wamena, in the centre.
Photo: Chris Richards
Photo: Chris Richards

PT Freeport’s Grasberg mine
[image, unknown] . The biggest gold deposit and the third-largest copper deposit in the world1
. Operated by PT Freeport. Stakeholders include parent company Freeport McMoRan, mining giant Rio Tinto (RTZ-CRA) and the Indonesian Government2
. In many financial years the company is the Indonesian Government’s biggest tax-payer. Has been paying an average of $180 million a year in taxes and royalties, of which only $30 million (80% of royalties) return to West Papua3
. Of 18,000 employees only 5,500 are West Papuans; 80,000 of the 110,000 now living around the mine are non-Papuan1
. Company’s record on environment and human rights is poor – see page 15.

1 Interview with the company’s former Vice-President of Environmental Affairs, Bruce Marsh ‘Learning the lessons of poor community development’ in Van Zorge Report on Indonesia, Issue III/8 (2001) pp 33-39.
2 Danny Kennedy, Pratap Chatterjee and Roger Moody ‘Risky Business: the Grasberg gold mine.’ (Project Underground, Berkeley, 1998) pp 22.
3 John McBeth ‘Enlightened mining exploitation: Irian Jaya’ (Far Eastern Economic Review, 27 Dec 01-3 Jan 02).

Sentani – home of assassinated independence leader Theys Eluay. Country’s main airport is here. Next to magnificent Danau Sentani – a 9,630 hectare lake with 19 islands.
Photo: Chris Richards
Photo: Chris Richards

Capital Jayapura: a quarter of West Papua’s population lives in urban areas; 80% of Jayapura’s population is non-Papuan.
Photo: Chris Richards
Photo: Chris Richards

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