An RH company called PRISTINE #18---is that a joke?
Not funny at all. Rimbunan Hijau is partnered with a Western Australia company (their website is herehttp://www.siburan.com.au/) to 'explore' for gold in the Upper Karawari/Arafundi. Across the heart of the Karawari Cave Arts Project and the home of the Meakambut people. Thus far no one in the Penale tribe has signed anything, but their southern Alamblak neighbours from YImas who seem to have invited them into the region are eager to give away the rights of their less literate and more vulnerable neighbours.
(These first 5 photos below are by Amy Toensig, and appeared in the Jan 2011 issue of National Geographic)
We have enjoyed the expertise of two former BRG fieldworkers, Yorba Yulg and Singnu Fauya, in the field recently. And they were there when the company called for a meeting with the Penale landowners at Imbion Village this week. Because they had spent six weeks conducting conservation awareness, and because we have forged a conservation consensus of sorts over the past seven years of work on the Karawari Cave Arts Project, NONE of the Penale people were receptive. The Malaysian/Australian would-be developers landed their chopper with Mineral Resource Authority men, both highlanders, and unscrolled a newly minted exploration license. From Enga down into the rainforest inhabited by the Meakambut and ultimately reaching the lowland of the Yimas people, they would search for gold. The Yimas were represented by Ambrose Otto and others. They have long been the beneficiaries of Karawari tourism, as they live just below the Karawari lodge, but have also been without land or resources to expand as they numbers grow. Without caves themselves, they have only marginally particiapted in the Cave Arts Project (which includes our paying their school feeds and providing medical care nevertheless---indeed some of our strongest cave workers are Yimas people, not least my son Christian). For some reason they believe RH will serve their interests in this project ---even though some of their close relatives spent a decade trying to evict the shape-shifting subsidiaries of RH from their cancerous claims to Awain forest on the north coast of ESP.
Jack Yalaso, Meakambut leader, explains the importance of the caves and the land.
Camilus Yakaman tells the miners he will always live and work on this land and his children will raise their children here too.
When we broke out a still camera they brought out their videocam. But we also took notes, and Bonny Tamak sent this message to me right away. Bonny himself if from Yimas and tells me 3 Yimas men are spearheading the support for this EL, as their swampy floodplain is included in the northern edge of the liscense. All the Penale, who live in the majority of the EL landscape, are adamantly against exploration.
Some might say the inclusion of an Australian partner could reign RH in on this project. We doubt that very much. With the help of C.P. (thank you) a company search tells us: