'Inco Innovation Centre' opening coincides with global protests against Inco
AS THE top brass of Inco and Memorial University of Newfoundland celebrated the grand opening of the "Inco Innovation Centre" at Memorial University in September, protests against the company by indigenous people are becoming a common occurrence in Indonesia, New Caledonia and Guatemala.
Memorial University students active with the Society for Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility (CESR) rained on the Inco and Memorial University parade when they questioned and commented on Inco's track record of human rights abuses around the world and its implications to the university during the official opening of the Centre that featured a panel discussion on "innovation." "No innovation will be found here unless Inco takes responsibility for the communities, lives and livelihoods it has affected in places such as Guatemala, Indonesia and Kanaky-New Caledonia. Inco's record with indigenous people is offensive," stated Chad Griffiths from CESR at the panel discussion held during the last week of September.
"It is shameful that Inco refuses to settle compensation disputes with the indigenous people of Sulawesi, Indonesia while the company spends millions of dollars to establish a 'Inco Innovation Centre' at Memorial University in Canada," stated Adi Widyanto of the Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM).
On 28 September over five hundred people from the Karonsi'e Dongi community staged a blockade at the PT Inco mine site in Sorowako. The Karonsi'e Dongi people, restricted access to their former land, were not compensated for lost land and livelihoods.
Protests and Blockades Continue Against Inco in Indonesia
- Press Release, September 28, 2005 -
The following press release was issued by the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM), MiningWatch Canada and the Society for Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility (CESR).
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Today, Wednesday, September 28, 2005, over five hundred people are staging a blockade at the PT Inco mine site in Sorowako, Indonesia while facing intimidation by hired men to deter the action and create horizontal conflict within the community. Several people earlier detained by police for several hours have been released.
The blockade follows demonstrations, and a week long sit-in and hunger strike at the Inco regional office in Makassar, Indonesia by community members and supporters to get a meeting with PT Inco. PT Inco refuses to meet with the community. The Karonsi'e Dongi indigenous community want a meeting with PT Inco to discuss and resolve a three decade-old land dispute as well as compensation for the recent acquisition of land used for community gardens. Former PT Inco employees are also participating in the actions with the communities and demanding that the company fulfill labour obligations and provide severance pay.
"Our community has become more impoverished with the PT Inco development. We struggle daily to survive. We want the land taken over for PT Inco golf course to be returned to us and if this is not possible, we want land returned to us to establish a settlement for our community," testified Pak Yadin, head of the Karonsi'e Dongi community alliance, during a public debate on mining today in Jakarta.
The Karonsi'e Dongi community fled the Sorowako area in the 1950s during a time of rebellion. They began returning in the 1960s when it was deemed safe only to find that their settlement and gardens had been taken over for a large-scale nickel mine development including a company exclusive golf course. The Karonsi'e Dongi people, restricted access to their former land, were not compensated for lost land and livelihoods. Only in the year 2000, over 25 years after Inco began operations in the area, were other indigenous people of the area granted similar access as the Inco company staff to recreational facilities like the golf course, the restaurant, unpolluted areas of the lake shore, schools and a treated drinking water supply. Today, the Karonsi'e Dongi people face a daily struggle to survive and question their survival as a community.
Inco Ltd., the global mining giant from Canada and the world's second largest nickel mining company, has a long track record of environmental and social problems at its operations in Canada and around the world.
"Inco is known to be one of Canada's largest single source polluters of air and soil, threatening the health of communities in Sudbury, Flin Flon and Port Colborne," says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, "and Inco is now increasingly exporting its bad environmental track record and controversy-ridden community and labour relations to places like Guatemala, Indonesia and Kanaky-New Caledonia."
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