JAKARTA May 25 Between 35 and 40 percent of
workers at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's
Indonesian unit returned to work on Saturday to carry out
maintenance work after a tunnel collapse that killed 28 people,
a union official said.
The resumption of work was a possible sign the firm was
gearing up towards restarting operations at the world's No. 2
Arizona-based Freeport suspended operations at the remote
Papua mine on May 15, at a cost estimated at about $15 million a
day in lost production.
Operations were suspended a day after the tunnel, away from
its main operations, fell in on 38 workers.
"Starting today, around 35 to 40 percent of workers have
been back to work in Freeport mining facility in Papua, but only
for mining facilities and equipment maintenance, especially in
Grasberg open-pit mining," Papua-based union leader Virgo
Solossa told Reuters.
"Production activities are still shut. We hope investigation
teams complete their works as soon as possible."
Several investigations are being conducted, including one by
the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and one by Freeport
Indonesia using international experts.
Solossa reiterated that all investigations into the cause of
the collapse must be completed before mining resumes at the
Grasberg complex, which also holds the world's largest gold
"The company, with the unions, have agreed to actually
return to work, starting yesterday," Freeport spokeswoman Daisy
Primayanti said on Saturday, although she was unable to give an
exact figure or percentage of returning workers.
On Thursday, Freeport Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said
the company was prepared to re-start production relatively
quickly and had taken the first steps of getting workers back
and having training briefings.
Primayanti said a possible restart of operations at Grasberg
depended on the outcome of underground safety inspections being
carried out by the energy and mineral resources ministry.
"Obviously, the company is keen on getting back to normal
operations, pending further direction from the mine inspector,"
With no official estimate of how long the investigations
might run, analysts worry the mine could face a prolonged
closure and further strain relations between Freeport and trade
unions after a three-month strike in late 2011.
The company and union put on hold pay talks, which began on
May 13, after the tunnel collapse.
"It is not ethical to link the accident to the pay talks,"
Solossa said. "However, as far as safety is concerned, we will
push the management to improve the safety systems for the sake
The Grasberg mine, which normally produces around 220,000
tonnes of concentrated ore a day, employs about 24,000 workers.