Preliminary Report: The Case of Ecocide in West Papua

Home to 1.5 million indigenous peoples who speak over 250 languages, West Papua is a biodiversity hotspot with over 17,700 species of flora and fauna, 32 million hectares of old growth tropical rainforest and mangroves, and one of the world’s richest marine reef environments with 565 species of coral. Located on the western half of the island of New Guinea, West Papua is a militarized territory — the site of a long-term conflict between Indonesia and indigenous Papuans seeking self-determination.

Central to the conflict is the Grasberg mine located on the Melanesian section of the Pacific »ring of fire.« The mine contains the planet’s largest combined reserve of copper and gold. Since the late 1970’s Freeport, the transnational company that owns and operates the mine, has been dumping vast quantities of toxic residue downstream into the rivers and the sea, perpetrating an environmental disaster. The company has controversial security arrangements with the Indonesian military, which continues to commit severe human rights violations and suppress political free speech. Journalists, humanitarian workers, and researchers face restricted movement in the region, requiring remote methods of visualizing and reporting on the ongoing conflict.

Preliminary Report: The Case of Ecocide in West Papua presents a series of maps, drawings, models, archival material, video, and specimens from the Stuttgart Natural History Museum. In particular the spatial analysis is based on human rights reports, corporate financial data, and freely available remote sensing imagery, all oriented towards building a case of ecocide against the Indonesian state — including Indonesian military’s campaigns of mass killing indigenous Papuans in the Central Highlands (1977-78), deforestation and contamination from the Grasberg gold and copper mine into the Arafura sea, industrial agro-fuel land grabs, and intentional forest fires set in the Merauke region that together show the deliberate destruction of Papuan social, cultural, and natural environments.

The case of ecocide in West Papua forms part of Inter-Pacific Ring Tribunal (INTERPRT), an interdisciplinary project initiated by Nabil Ahmed for the investigation of environmental violence, their legality, and their impact on sovereignty for the Pacific region.


On show at Akademie Schloss Solitude September 15 – October 30.

A collaboration with Olga Lucko. Supported by the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart.