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Protestors vandalize Freeport offices in Jakarta

Published by MAC on 2006-02-23

Protestors vandalize Freeport offices in Jakarta

by Sydney Morning Post

23rd February 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Students attacked the building, housing offices of a U.S. gold mining giant in Indonesia's capital on Thursday, as the company's mine in western Papua province remained shut for a second day due to protests, police said.

Up to 20 Papuan students broke windows and damaged facilities in the lobby of the building in the pre-dawn attack, said police chief Gen. Sutanto. Thirteen people were arrested.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. was forced to shut its massive gold and copper mine in Papua on Wednesday after locals — some of them carrying bow and arrows — set up barricades and demanded permission to sift through waste ore pumped out by the mine.

The New Orleans-based company, already under fire over pollution allegations and its practice of paying security forces to guard its open pit mine, said it hoped to resume operations soon, but the mine remained close Thursday.

The blockades followed clashes Tuesday after police and company security guards tried to prevent locals from sifting through the waste rock. Six people were injured.

Adrianto Machribie, head of PT Freeport Indonesia, the company's Indonesian subsidiary, told Metro TV the closure could cost the company $10 million to $12 million a day.

The mine, which has long had an uneasy relationship with local people, many of whom are desperately poor, last temporarily closed in 2003 after a landslide killed several workers. Although illegal, many people earn their living retrieving and selling tiny amounts of gold and copper from waste rock, or tailings, dumped by the mine.

Security practices at the site have came under renewed scrutiny since a 2002 attack on a convoy of teachers working at the mine killed two U.S. citizens. Local and foreign rights groups claim soldiers took part in the attack, allegedly to extort more security payments from Freeport.

Papua is also home to a separatist rebellion, further complicating Freeport's security.

The Grasberg mine, the largest gold mine in the world and third largest copper mine, opened in 1973. Freeport estimates the mine, some 2,300 miles east of Jakarta, has decades of future production.

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