Our good friend Greg Poulgrain, author of The Incubus of Intervention: Conflicting Indonesia Strategies of John F. Kennedy & Allen Dulles and The Genesis of Konfrontasi: Malaysia, Brunei & Indonesia 1945-1965, has recently appeared in The Jakarta Post writing about the on going negotiations over the Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia.
The Grasberg is the same mine which features in The Incubus of Intervention as the object of a colonial struggle to attain its resources by the Dutch, Americans and Indonesians. Yet as Poulgrain argues this was unbeknownst to both Kennedy & Sukarno.
“The main issue is gold. This vast primary deposit was never mentioned in the 1960s during the anti colonial campaign to reclaim Netherlands New Guinea as part of Indonesia. Neither then president Sukarno nor Kennedy was aware of the gold deposit in the territory or how it was influencing political decisions behind the scenes. However, former Dutch foreign minister, Joseph Luns, whom I interviewed July 15 on 1982, when he was NATO secretary-general, was well aware of the gold in New Guinea. He stated that he had proposed a joint-operation with the Americans (in those days, the Rockefeller company was known as Freeport Sulphur) but the answer was negative. American determination to claim sole access to the gold took effect when Soeharto came to power.”
Whilst the Grasberg has always been officially classified as a copper mine with some gold, Poulgrain argues that the real gold content of the mine has always been underplayed for official reasons. But what this has meant in the end is that the people of Papua have never truly benefited from the resources in their state.