BALI, Indonesia – Indonesia’s government has ordered that production be halted at a giant U.S.-owned gold and copper mine during an investigation into recent fatal accidents there, a senior official said Monday.
Mines and Energy Minister Jero Wacik said the mine will only be allowed to conduct maintenance during the probe by an independent team, which is expected to take two to three months.
PT Freeport Indonesia’s Big Gossan underground training facility at its Grasberg mine in easternmost Papua province collapsed May 14, killing 28 workers. A truck driver at the mine died on Saturday, a day after he was injured when liquid ore material flowed into his vehicle.
The mine, owned by Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., produces around 220,000 tons of ore per day — 140,000 from its open mine and 80,000 from an underground one.
Freeport said it has completed a preliminary safety inspection of its mines and is in the process of forming its own team to investigate the collapse.
Freeport Indonesia spokeswoman Daisy Primayanti said the company will co-operate with the government in efforts to restart mining operations.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered officials to thoroughly evaluate all mining companies in the country to ensure safety.
Operations at the Grasberg mine were suspended after the tunnel collapse for two weeks until May 28. However, three days later liquid ore flowed into the truck, killing the driver.
Union leader Virgo Salossa said Monday that unionized workers will refuse to work until the release of the investigation results.
More than 20,000 workers are employed at the mine, which began operations in the 1970s.
In 2011, production was crippled when 8,000 unionized employees walked off the job after demanding higher pay. The strike ended after the company agreed to a 37 per cent wage hike and improved benefits.