Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Lisa M. Brady, Ph.D.


Shaun Nichols, Ph.D.


Erik Hadley, Ph.D.


The Amungme and Kamoro managed their environments for thousands of years in what is now Papua, Indonesia. In the late 1960s, seeking foreign capital to boost the nation’s economy, the president of Indonesia signed a contract with Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, which by 1988 began mining one of the world’s largest gold mines with almost no environmental regulations in place. Freeport’s close relationship to the Suharto regime resulted in the company’s ability to evade consequences for environmental and social damage. In the 1990s, NGOs began publicly criticizing the company’s substandard environmental and social record, pressuring the company through negative international attention. Freeport hurried to shield its reputation by investing in environmental management plans and addressing the social tensions with the indigenous population. Although many have addressed Freeport’s involvement in the abuses leveled on the environment and the indigenous populations in the mining concession, there is yet to be an analysis of this relationship through the lens of environmental justice history. While demonstrating how the political, material, and cultural levels of an environmental analysis aptly describe the relationship between Freeport, the environment, and the indigenous people, this thesis will argue that Freeport’s attempts at remediation were simply a veneer to ward off critics against the mining operations; all the while the company’s social and environmental records worsened over time. Freeport disrupted the lives of the indigenous people, who nevertheless showed complexity and agency in the face of great change.



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