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Freeport mine halts operations in West Papua amid worker clashes

Freeport miners

West Papuan miners at Freeport's Grasberg mine during last year's strike. Photo: AFP

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Rangga D. Fadillah

The US-owned Freeport Indonesia company has temporarily halted operations at the giant Grasberg gold and copper mine in Timika, West Papua, following clashes between union workers and employees who did not join last year’s strike.

“We are experiencing work interruptions in connection with our efforts to resume normal operations at the mine,” company spokesperson Ramdani Sirait said in a press statement.

“Certainly, returning workers have engaged in acts of violence and intimidation against non-striking workers and supervisory personnel,” he said.

“We are working with union officials and government authorities to resolve the ongoing issues between returning workers.”

The statement did not provide any description of the violence, but three workers were reportedly arrested and are being held at the Tembagapura police post.

Virgo Solossa, head of the Mimika chapter of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (SPSI, told The Jakarta Post that employees stopped working because mine management failed to fulfill several terms of an agreement signed on December 22.

“The agreement says that PTFI has to pay salaries of workers who joined last year’s strike for the period of December 21 to January 21.

“However, on January 29 when the payment date came, the workers did not receive the payments as expected,” he said in a telephone interview.

Workers angry
Solossa said workers were angry with the payments, and some committed violent acts against colleagues and supervisors.

“The mine management fails to create a conducive environment for reconciliation. It also fails to comply with agreements we have made. We decided to stop working until the company fulfills our demands,” Solossa said.

The union demanded that mine replace Grasberg supervisors and withdraw legal action against the workers involved in the violence.

“We stopped working, as a manifestation of our distrust of  the company’s management,” Solossa said.

In reference to the salaries paid, Sirait said the mine “had implemented and was implementing clauses agreed in the joint working agreement (PKB)”.

Freeport’s workers went on strike from July 4 to 11 last year, demanding a pay rise in the PKB for 2011-2013.

On September 15, due to failure to reach agreement with the company (PTFI) management, workers decided to stop working until December 14, when another agreement was made.

Company claim
As a result of the strikes, PTFI declared force majeure in October, freeing it from its obligations. The company claimed the strikes impacted production and shipments.

A slower concentrate production had impacted on the company’s ability to comply with sales commitments.

The PKB was signed on January 25, witnessed by Manpower and Transportation Ministry officials.

According to a report by US-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, PTFI’s parent company, the estimated impact of the disruptions amounted to production losses of almost 75,000 tonnes of copper and nearly five tonnes of gold in the fourth quarter of 2011, and around 106,600 tons of copper and 7.9 tons of gold for the year.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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