- Locals on the Indonesian island of Biak are angry SpaceX was invited to build a launchpad there.
- The Indonesian president was in discussions with Elon Musk about the plans in December.
- A Biak tribal chief told The Guardian the spaceport would “damage the nature our way of life depends on.”
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Residents of a small Indonesian island said on Tuesday a new SpaceX launchpad on their land would devastate the environment and threaten their livelihoods, The Guardian has reported.
In December, the Indonesian government offered SpaceX CEO Elon Musk a rocket launch site on the island of Biak, in the Papua province.
Musk and the Indonesian president Joko Widodo have also discussed plans over the phone in December and Musk was planning to send a team to the island in January to look at potential investments, the country’s coordinating ministry for maritime and investment affairs said in December.
But Manfun Sroyer, a tribal chief on the island, told The Guardian on Tuesday he was worried Papuans would be forced to leave their homes.
“This spaceport will cost us our traditional hunting grounds, damaging the nature our way of life depends on. But, if we protest, we’ll be arrested immediately,” Sroyer said.
This isn’t the only rocket launch site that may be built on Biak. Russia’s aerospace agency, Roscosmos, wants to develop a launchpad on the island by 2024.
“In 2002, Russians wanted our land for satellite launches. We protested and many were arrested and interrogated … now they’ve brought it back, and this harassment and intimidation is still going on,” Sroyer told The Guardian.
Indonesia has some of the world’s largest deposits of copper and nickel – two materials key for making rockets and batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles.
Tesla, of which Musk is also CEO, is already in talks with the Indonesian government about possible investments opportunities, according to the government’s December statement.
A spokesperson from the government told the Guardian on Tuesday the planned launchpad was being developed with direction from the the Papuan government and local communities.
They also said that Biak would become a “space island” which would “bring positive economic impacts” for those living there.
SpaceX is also launching satellites into orbit via its Falcon 9 rocket to create global internet coverage called Starlink. These launches currently take place at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.