MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Government Mulls Freeport Resumption

Published by MAC on 2003-12-09


Government Mulls Freeport Resumption

Laksama.Net, Jakarta

December 9 2003

The government is still considering US-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's request to resume full operations at its giant Grasberg mine in Papua province.

The mine has been partly closed following a landslide that killed eight Indonesian workers in October. The government has since been investigating claims that overproduction and managerial negligence caused the disaster.

Another deadly accident occurred on November 29, when two workers suffocated in a tunnel conveying ore from the mine to refining facilities.

Suryatono, director of engineering at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, on Wednesday (3/12/03) said it could take a while to respond to Freeport's request, as meetings need to be held before a decision can be reached. "We need time to evaluate their request," he was quoted as saying by OsterDowJones.

He said representatives of the ministry were due to meet with the mine's technical manager on Thursday and would seek an assurance that "everything will be safe and hopefully, there will be no more accidents".

Following that meeting, the representatives will hold further talks and then submit a report to the ministry's geology and mineral resources director general Wimpy Tjetjep, who was in Switzerland last week for a World Trade Organization meeting.

Freeport says it has completed recovery efforts related to the October landslide and is ready to resume normal operations pending governmental approval.

In a press release on Wednesday, the company said the latest accident occurred when ore containing previously unencountered concentrations of elemental sulfur released fumes in an underground tunnel. The fumes caused asphyxiation in two workers, while several others were injured.

Freeport expects the October accident will cause this year's sales of copper to fall from a projected 1.4 billion pounds to 1.33 billion pounds, while gold sales are likely to fall from a projected 2.6 million ounces to 2.45 million ounces.

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