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Background:

Published by MAC on 2003-10-10

Background:

Six missing in slippage in Freeport mine

October 10, 2003

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post

U.S.-based mining company Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc. announced on Thursday two of its employees were killed and six others were missing following a slippage at its Grasberg mine in the province of Papua. The slippage also injured five workers.

In a press release, Freeport said the slippage occurred on Thursday morning in a section of the Grasberg mine operated by its affiliate, PT Freeport Indonesia (FI). The mine is located in Tembagapura, Mimika regency. The company is probing the cause of the slippage. Freeport said efforts were ongoing to locate the missing workers and to ensure the safety of other FI workers and its operations. "Our first priority in responding to this unfortunate event is to take action to provide for the safety of our people, to care for those injured and to locate those who are missing," Freeport chairman and chief executive James R. Moffet and president Richard C. Adkerson said in a statement. "We extend our heart-felt sympathy to the families of those who perished. While the physical damages to our operations are not large, we reiterate our commitment to provide for the safety of our operations for all our employees."

The Grasberg mine is one of the world's largest gold mines. It also produces copper. Freeport said its plans for the fourth quarter of 2003 could be affected by the incident, which might force it to defer some production to 2004. However, the incident is not expected to affect FI's long-term plans for the mine, the company said.

FI is 81.28 percent owned by Freeport McMoRan, while the Indonesia government and PT Indocopper Investama Corporation each hold a 9.36 percent stake in the company.

The slippage at the Grasberg mine is the second deadly incident to occur there in the past several years. In May 2000, four workers of PT Petrosea and PT Graha Buana Jaya, subcontractors to FI, were killed when a large pile of waste collapsed. Following the incident, Freeport came under fire from several environmentalists and government officials, who urged the company to cut their production output and put in place a sufficient early warning system.

The chairman of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Longgena Ginting, said he regretted the incident and urged the government to conduct an environmental audit of the company. "Enough is enough. They must cut their production output or shut the site down immediately. How many more casualties do they (Freeport) want?" said Longgena.

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