Indonesia may decide this week on Freeport mine operations-minister

JAKARTA, June 18 Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:10am EDT

JAKARTA, June 18 (Reuters) - Indonesia's government may decide this week on whether to allow Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc to resume open-pit mining, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources said on Tuesday, five weeks after a tunnel collapse killed 28 workers.

Freeport suspended operations at the world's No.2 copper mine in West Papua on May 15, a day after a training area in a tunnel caved in on 38 people.

The final report from a government probe into the tunnel collapse was given to the Minerals Ministry on Monday.

"Freeport has passed on a letter (requesting) permission to reopen the open-pit," Energy and Minerals Resources Minister Jero Wacik told reporters. "We will decide this week whether to allow the open pit (to reopen) or not."

Wacik was reported in the Jakarta Globe newspaper on Tuesday as having said that a decision on whether to reopen the copper and gold mine was due to be made next week.

Freeport Indonesia could not be reached for comment.

The head of the probe said last week the initial findings of the investigation had been discussed at ministerial level.

Papua-based Freeport union officials have said production should not resume until all investigations into the accident are completed. They would also like to evaluate the final report and see if Freeport implements all recommendations.

"The open pit (mine) is relatively safer, but the steep slopes still need to be monitored closely," Wacik said on Tuesday at a news conference. "The underground (mine) is still shut."

"There are indications (from the investigation) that the ground movements were caused by weathering (or) corrosion," he added, referring to the May accident.

Arizona-based Freeport declared force majeure last Wednesday to free itself from obligations to deliver copper concentrate from its Grasberg mine.

Although production was suspended one day after the tunnel collapse, workers at the mine have been carrying out maintenance duties.

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