What is happening and why
A WWF/IUCN study identified the ecoregions in New Guinea as some of the world’s most threatened by mining. Seven of the 9 New Guinea ecoregions are considered under threat.
Papua New Guinea mining…
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the mining industry is by far the largest source of revenue for the country. It is also the second largest employer and a significant contributor to the development of rural infrastructure. But there’s another side to the coin: extractive operations are major polluters of the country’s waterways and marine systems, along with the species they support.
…and the Indonesian context
On the Indonesian side of the island, mining also represents a source of considerable revenue. Governmental incentives have been put in place to explore the eastern provinces, boosted by Freeport’s 1988 discovery of the giant Grasberg gold mining site in Papua Province.
Indonesia’s laws give more control over financial and resource matters to provincial and local governments. But modifications to the 2001 Special Autonomy Law has denied Papua Province a share of corporate taxes, which represents by far the largest chunk of annual payments.a
This has just added to existing strains between the under-developed province and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, thousands of kilometres away.
The mining footprint
Mining primarily affects freshwater and coastal ecosystems, although there is additional disturbance of land and forests. During the exploration stage, impacts can include road building, forest clearance, temporary settlements, trenching and drilling.
Once extraction has begun, further impacts may include open pit mines, cyanide leaching pads, small-scale mining with mercury, tailings dams, settlements, increased agriculture, logging and hunting.1