FREEPORT: PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE

Liisa Wale January 2, 2013 0

By Liisa Wale
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org

Freeport-McMoRan is a international copper and gold mining company which is headquartered in Phoenix. In 2011 RepRisk listed Freeport-McMoRan as one of the 10 most controversial mining companies due to its negative impacts on communities and the environment. Here in Arizona they operate mines in Morenci, Bagdad, Sierrita, Miami, and Safford. In 2007 Freeport acquired Phelps Dodge and began a mining reclamation project in Bisbee. In middle of last year they began the process of evicting people from their homes in Bisbee so they can continue the reclamation project.

Freeport-McMoRan also has a history of labor abuse throughout the world. One of Freeport’s largest assets, the Grasberg mine in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, has become one of its largest liabilities. Over the years it has been reported that students and locals protesting the Freeport mine have also been arrested, attacked, and tortured. Reports have also found that mine security and Indonesian military and police forces have been responsible for deaths, torture, and disappearances of locals as well as foreigners. In 2008 Freeport admitted it paid “1.6 million dollars through wire transfers and cheques… to provide a ‘monthly allowance’ to police and soldiers at and around the Grasberg mine,” per Agence France-Presse.  According to Chris Lundry, a professor at Arizona State University, 45% of Freeport’s profits come from Indonesian workers who make $2 to $3 dollars a day.

Video by West Papua Action Network :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U9z_ZBScsI&feature=youtu.be

To bring attention to the actions of Freeport-McMoRan in Bisbee,as well as labor and environmental abuses throughout the world, a weekend of action was organized by Occupy Phoenix, Phoenix Industrial Workers of the World and East Timor Action Network. The weekend kicked off at Freeport-McMoRan headquarters in Phoenix on Friday, December 14th. At the same time Freeport was hosting a open house in Bisbee where they are currently evicting land owners.

A small group braved the weather to speak out about the actions of Freeport. Signs and chanting included “No Blood for Copper, No Blood for Gold” and “Freeport and Phelps Dodge Murdering Miners on Strike Since 1917”. Speakers included Sandy Bahr of the Grand Canyon Sierra Club, Brian Thoi of Phoenix IWW, and Chris Lundry and Elizabeth Venable with ETAN.

Video by Crazy-Man Documentaries:

The action at Freeport on Friday night was followed by a concert at Aside of Heart.

On Saturday morning, December 15th a caravan departed for Tucson and Bisbee to meet up with others who are actively speaking up about Freeport’s activities throughout the state. First stop was Tucson where the caravan met up with Occupy Tucson and held a small protest at the Tucson Freeport Building.

The caravan then headed to Bisbee to visit and hear stories from South Bisbee homeowners who are fighting to stay in their homes. Some of the people have lived there for 60 years. In June, 2012 Freeport-McMoran notified South Bisbee residents that they had five months to leave, and offered them $50 per square foot for their houses. Several homeowners said they felt pressured to sign documents agreeing to the terms, or they would receive zero compensation. If residents accept the package they would also relinquish all medical legal claims against the mining company for any related health issues, present or future. After some of the residents spoke up about the eviction Freeport gave residents an extra 8 months to relocate. It has been reported that some homes have already been destroyed before the homeowners had time to remove their belongings. The mining company says it wants to reclaim and cover soil contaminated by years of heavy metal poisoning. However, Freeport’s past actions demonstrate that they “put profits before people”.

Video by Alison Mcleod:

Brian Thoi, of Phoenix IWW, states “Workers in Asia and Africa lose their health and struggle to feed their families, while retirees in South Bisbee, Arizona lose their homes and struggle to find a place to live. At the same time, the Freeport-McMoRan bosses line their pockets.”