Freeport halts gold production in Indonesia

Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold Inc. halted production at its gold and copper mine in Indonesia's restive province of Papua on Monday over security concerns.

Nurhadi Sabirin, a vice president for PT Freeport Indonesia, said in a video conference the decision would affect all operations at Grasberg's open-pit and underground mines.

The move — which comes four weeks into a strike by thousands of workers over low pay — was necessary because of attacks and suspected sabotage, he said.

The 60 mile (110 kilometer) pipeline that channels gold and copper concentrates to the port has been cut in several places, he said, adding it was still not clear who was responsible.

On Friday, attacks near the Grasberg mine, which has some of the largest gold and copper reserves in the world, left three miners dead and wounded a soldier and a civilian guard.

Days earlier, Indonesian security forces fired on striking workers, killing one and injuring more than a dozen other people.

"Beginning today, we are forced to halt production because of security considerations," said Sabirin, who was speaking from the mining town of Tembagapura.

He gave no indication when operations might resume.

About 90 percent of the Grasberg mine's 12,000 employees went on strike on Sept. 15.

They want their current salaries of between $2.10 to $3.50 an hour to be pushed to as high as $17 to $43, saying they deserve equal to what Freeport's miners get in other countries.

It's the second strike this year at the gold and copper mine in Indonesia's easternmost province.

Analysts said the first, eight-day work stoppage in July affected the company's revenue by $30 million a day.

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