Mine workers protest in Indonesias Papua

Mine workers protest in Indonesias Papua

Thousands of workers from a giant US-run mine in Indonesia’s remote Papua province staged a noisy but peaceful protest Wednesday amid tight security to demand better wages and welfare.

Police, including from the paramilitary Brimob unit, stood guard as thousands of workers from the Grasberg gold and copper mine demonstrated outside the Indonesian headquarters of Freeport-McMoRan in the town of Timika.

“They number in the thousands but so far the protest has been peaceful,” said Adi, a police officer on duty in the town.

The rally later moved to a council building for talks with Freeport representatives. The talks ended late Wednesday without resolution, and workers said the protest would resume Thursday while discussions continued.

“There was no result in the meeting with Freeport today mediated by the council,” said Frans Pigome, whose group headed talks on behalf of the workers.

“But they said we were going to have a meeting tomorrow with Armando Mahler, Freeport Indonesia’s president director.

“They also said Armando would organise for us to speak with Freeport executives in the United States via a teleconference,” Pigome said.

Company spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan told AFP early Wednesday that production remained at full capacity at the Grasberg mine despite the protest.

He later declined to comment on local media reports that the rally had forced the mine’s closure because of a lack of workers.

The protracted dispute, which centres on demands for higher wages and increased recruitment of Papuan workers as permanent employees, has helped push world copper prices to seven-month highs.

The workers have been gathering in Timika from surrounding villages and towns since Tuesday for the rally after talks with company representatives were called off. They had also demanded to speak with a Freeport executive in the US via teleconference.

Critics accuse Freeport of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for the mine. They allege the mine causes pollution and that the military’s protection of the site leads to human rights abuses.

The firm has disputed the claims.

Freeport’s Pangaribuan said that in the past decade the company had almost quadrupled its Papuan employment, from some 800 in 1996 to the current 3,000 workers.

Freeport operates concessions totalling 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) stretching from the coast to the central mountain range at Timika, with its copper reserves estimated at 2.6 billion tonnes.

It runs its Grasberg mine in southwest Papua under a 30-year contract with the Indonesian government that began in 1992. The company owns 91 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, with the rest in government hands.

Information from: AFP via news.yahoo.com

Share this post