United States-Copper-Sueharto Connection-
In 1965 a US backed Indonesian Military invaded East Timor, why would the US back a goverment that would go on to kill over 200,000. Was East Timor a threat? A population of 600,000 would hardly be a threeat. Was it's slightly leftist goverment? Some believe so, and some of that may be true, but the true story is about capitalist greed.
Ertsberg is a mountain within Indonesia's borders, which is home to vast amounts of copper. First discovered by dutch explorers in the 1930's, it was almost forgotten by the time World War II broke out. Then during the 1960's, Freeport-McMoran (a copper and gold mining buisness) stumbled on the dutch findings. Ertsbergs fate was sealed that very minnute.
Operations first started at Ertsberg, two kilometres away, a once rocky outcrop rich in copper which has now been reduced to a 360-metre water-filled pit. It was the first major mining contract signed between the Suharto regime and the US. The United States Goverment new this would be highly profitable, so they sold weapons & ammunition at a low cost to the Sueharto Regime. They did not care if it went to the killing of hundreds of thousands. The US wanted there preciouse copper, to them the copper equaled more wealth. They didn't care about the bloodshed.
While Ertsberg would soon run out of it's once vast mineral sources, another, much larger deposit was soon found, Grasberg. Soon the local people saw what capitalist industry really was. Protests from local people led to negotiations in January 1974, in which the company offered to provide some basic facilities -- housing, school, health clinic and employment opportunities. The agreement turned out to be very much in the company's favour, excluding local people from any further say over development of the area. No mechanism for compensation was worked out.
Tensions between the local people and the company simmered until 1977, when they reached flashpoint. Angered and in desperation, the Amungme people, with the assistance of Free West Papua independence fighters, blew up the pipeline which carries the copper concentrate from the Freeport mine to the coast for export. The US backed Indonesian government responded by sending the air force to strafe and attack villages with cluster bombs. The uprising which followed throughout the region was brutally suppressed; the government forcibly resettled communities away from the mine near the coast. In June 1980, 216 people died during an epidemic that swept through the resettlement camp. This included more than 20% of the infant population.
Freeport has continued to maintain a close relationship with the Indonesian military. Murphy has praised the armed forces as "by and large a generally well-trained, efficient apparatus and, Dili notwithstanding, I am not aware of any major problems in Irian Jaya [West Papua]". The military personnel harass and detain those who speak out against the mine. Local police assist in the protection of company property. Since the late '70s the situation has improved little for the local people. Many live in the shantytown on the outskirts of Tembagapura known as "Mud Town", which contrasts sharply with the luxury homes of Freeport staff. The company-provided school has no teacher, and the health centre is run by one civil servant with no medical training.
When Sueharto was overthrown, the US saw no more need to back the Indonesian Goverment. They had vast copper supplies and would continue to get them. Soon after the US goverment denounced Sueharto's actions and began to support East Timors independence. The US and Sueharto Regime worked hand in hand, the US got it's copper and protection of it's copper mine. While Sueharto recieved weapons and ammunition. The true story over the occupation of East Timor and the funding of a far-right oppressive regime is all about mere copper.