Friday, February 17, 2006

Those Freeport-Wheeling Capitalists

Did you know that Indonesia has a population, according to the CIA world factbook, of over 240 million, making it the world's fourth most populous country?

And were you aware that 90% of Indonesians are Muslim? That's over 200 million Muslims - which means there are more future terrorists lounging around in Indonesia than Iran, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria
combined! The Middle East is nothing compared to the Malay Archipelago. Lucky they're so far away, because if news of this Jihad reaches the Far East, we're screwed for sure. With that many people running around, US intelligence is having as hard a time tracking Al-Qaeda cells as Cheney is tracking a quail.

Lucky for us, we've got an ally in this battle. Known as Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, or FCX on the New York Stock Exchange, these badboys have been fighting back against Islam for decades now. How? By operating the Grasberg Mine, located in eastern Indonesia, which just happens to be the world's largest gold mine and third largest copper mine.

In 1967, an agreement was signed between Freeport-McMoRan and the Indonesian government awarding mining rights to some rich deposits of copper and gold until 2011. Originally, the agreement covered 30 square kilometers, hardly enough to dig up the gold for a single Rolex. Luckily, in 1989 the mining license was extended to include another
25,000 square kilometers. Now that's a lot of bullion! For years now, Freeport-McMoRan has been rifling through this land and selling all the goodies they find inside. Guess where all the profits went? Right into the bank accounts of CEOs and shareholders right here in the good old US of A.

I'm not talking peanuts, either. FCX has risen almost 500% since the beginning of 2002. Just this year, Freeport-McMoRan announced a record financial result for 2005 - reducing debt by $700 million, paying stock dividends of $500 million, and ending the year with $750 million in cash. In 2004, the mine's proven gold reserves were estimated at 46 million ounces. At an average price of $500 an ounce, that's $23 billion worth of gold sitting there waiting for democracy to dig it up. The problem with all that gold and copper is that it is embedded in tons of rock in a mine on top of a mountain. Even worse, the native Amungme people were living there and you know how natives can be when you're trying to rape their sacred grounds. Lucky for Jim Bob Moffett, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan, all you have to do is slip some Benjamins into the pockets of some high-level military officials and you've got the entire might of the Indonesian military whooping ass on its own native people. It also didn't hurt having former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the board to give former Indonesian president Suharto backrubs whenever he felt a little stressed.

In addition to pilfering Indonesia's natural resources and sending all the sweet profits across the Pacific so shareholders in America can afford those much-needed chrome 24-inch rims for their Cadillac Escalades, Freeport-McMoRan is also hitting them where it hurts most - below the belt. Or above it in this case - the excavation of countless tons of earth from the mountaintop where the mine is located has led to a crater that can be seen
from space. This is how Moffett describes it: "We have a volcano that's been decapitated by nature, and we're mining the esophagus, if you will." If those aren't the words of a hero, why did UT Austin name their molecular biology building after the guy?

So what happens to all the useless rock that's left after all the goodies are taken out? The inevitable side-effect of this huge mining operation is the production of massive amounts of tailings which can contain toxic heavy metals and byproducts of the ore-extraction process. But who cares? This ain't Canada, over there in Indonesia you can just dump it in the river. Since 1995, the Grasberg mine has dumped 650 million metric tons of untreated tailings into this river, the Aikwa, which now has such high deposits of copper that the fish in it have been completely wiped out. In other words, the ecosystem has been devastated and there is a lot more to come, as the mine produces over 200,000 tons of tailings
every single day.

Back in 1995 it got to the point where the Overseas Private Investment Corporation revoked Freeport-McMoRan's $100 million environmental insurance policy, something never before done. Reason cited: the mine posed "unreasonable or major environmental, health or safety hazards." Then in 1996 Freeport-McMoRan was awarded the honor of one of the world's top 10
worst corporations by Multinational Monitor magazine. Once again, these analysts have failed to note that Freeport-McMoRan has been doing all of us in the US a mighty big favor in terms of national security. Without them, Indonesians might be mining the gold themselves and you know that all the profits would be going straight into Osama's Swiss bank account.

And just in case some environmentally-minded and civil-liberty championing left-wingers come marching in to tell them that life would be better if they just packed up and came home, Freeport-McMoRan has got an ace up its sleeve - they are based in New Orleans. This means that they place an integral part in the rebuilding of the city that won all of our hearts by winning the 2005 Western Hemisphere Worst Disaster gold medal (Pakistan, of course, took the World Title). Now you've got these bleeding-heart liberals trapped in a paradox of born of their own benevolence, after all - who would want to hinder economic regrowth in the Big Easy? Mardi Gras 2007 had better kick as much ass as Burning Man.

So in the end turning international relations over to an ethically-challenged, multinational corporation is a hell of a lot better than putting Indonesia on the Axis of Evil list and coming in with a whole bunch of Marines and maybe a cruise missle or two to blow the place up. As long as your typical Indonesian is scrambling to make ends meet and worrying about whether their drinking water contains high levels of sulfuric acid, he won't have time to make it to the late night Al-Qaeda poker games. And we don't want to step in there with the military and screw up the status quo anyway. Why? Because Indonesia's most populous island is Java, and we all know that homeland security and freedom means nothing without a venti triple shot latte from Starbucks.

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