DOING WELL BY DOING GOLD?
We were disappointed that your recent report on our mining operation in Irian Jaya did not provide a more complete account of our extensive efforts to provide economic and social benefits for the people of that region ("Gold rush in New Guinea," International Business, Nov. 20).
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. has invested more than $3 billion in this project, including the construction of roads, health facilities, and schools. Social-welfare spending alone has averaged about $14 million a year, and our efforts have resulted in a substantial decline in infant mortality and malaria. Life expectancy among the native Amungme and Kamoro tribes, described in your article as "...just emerging from the Stone Age," has also increased significantly.
Some of these local people are understandably uncomfortable with the major change they are now encountering and are confused by development and growth. The vast majority, however, are excited about the chance to build a better future for their children and their community.
As you note, the land-rights issue has presented a significant challenge because the Amungme have no concept of individual land ownership. We believe that our commitment to community development rather than individual compensation represents an effective solution that provides maximum benefit for the Amungme people. As with any new concept, our effort requires periodic refinement. We are continually working with tribal leaders to resolve differences in a way that is fair to all.
Finally, we have established a state-of-the-art environmental program that adheres to the highest standards and has received all permits from the Indonesian government. The program includes impact studies and a strong management and monitoring plan.
Planned and operated with the best expertise available, our project has been visited regularly by representatives from the global mining industry, commercial banks, the investment community, and government officials. All who have seen it regard it as a model for development in an emerging country. I am personally proud of our accomplishments and our sense of responsibility, as are all of our people here at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold.
Richard C. Adkerson
Chief Financial Officer
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold