TIMIKA, Indonesia, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Tribal leaders in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province on Monday threatened to blockade Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc’s (FCX.N) huge mine after police killed a separatist commander last week.
Kelly Kwalik had led a militant wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and was one of the members who had campaigned against the presence of Freeport, which operates the Grasberg copper and gold mine.
The OPM has waged a low-level insurgency against the Indonesian government for four decades.
About 700 people gathered on Monday outside the local parliament building in Timika where Kwalik’s body was kept, awaiting burial, and threatened to disrupt activity at the mine if Freeport’s chairman, James (Jim) Moffett, did not come to Timika to pay his respects to Kwalik.
“Moffett must come and follow the burial, if not the burial must be delayed and Freeport must be closed down,” men and women shouted outside parliament.
Timika is the main town near Freeport’s huge Grasberg mine, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of Freeport’s total copper reserves of 93 billion pounds, and boasts the world’s largest gold reserves.
Papua was incorporated into Indonesia under a widely criticized U.N.-backed vote in 1969, after Jakarta took over the area in 1963 at the end of Dutch colonial rule.
Indonesia’s foreign minister said on Monday Jakarta saw no U.N. role in what he called the sovereignty issue of Papua, but would engage the U.N. system on development in the province and developing government human rights capacity in general.
“Indonesia is very much concerned that there is a situation that needs to be managed in Papua,” Marty Natalegawa said at the United Nations, where he served as Indonesian ambassador until October. He compared Papua to Aceh province, where Jakarta and separatist rebels signed a peace deal in 2005.
“This is principally a question of governance, a question of ensuring development opportunities prosper in Papua, a question of ensuring that any human rights abuses or shortcomings are properly addressed,” he told reporters.
An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman said last week the government was not in a position to negotiate with the OPM. (Reporting by Samuel Wanda in Timika and Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations, Writing by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Will Dunham)