Grasberg Mine Tailings Inundating Forest in Indonesia

File this under “you gotta be kidding me” — tailings (waste rock, mud, etc.) from the massive open-pit Grasberg copper/gold mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, are actually dumped right into the river system. It’s called “riverine tailings disposal.” Sounds very sophisticated. When the fast-flowing mountain streams hit the forested lowlands, though, they slow down and dump their load of crud across a steadily growing floodplain of desolation, killing most of the vegetation:


Grasberg mine tailings in 1988 (above) and 2003 (below)

According to the New Orleans-based mine operator, Freeport McMoRan, this is all perfectly legal in Indonesia. But some of their investors aren’t too happy about this.

We’ve created a gallery of satellite images showing how rapidly the area of devastation grew between 1988 and 2003. Can’t wait to see a more recent image…

Our images appear about 4 minutes into a 2007 documentary film by Kurt Diegert called “Exploiting West Papua.” The film also includes spectacular low-altitude aerial shots of the inundated floodplain.