April 8, 2011 / 10:38 AM / 7 years ago

Indonesian copper mine workers protest after killings

TIMIKA, Indonesia, April 8 (Reuters) - Hundreds of workers at an Indonesian copper and gold mine run by Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc protested on Friday after the killing of two colleagues, which heightened concern about security along the jungle road they need to take to work.

Local police said two men had died inside a burning car on Thursday, a day after two other people were wounded in a shooting near the huge mine in Papua, a province with a simmering separatist movement.

On Thursday, Freeport said in a statement: “Initial reports from police indicated that the vehicle appears to have been fired upon.” Police would not comment on whether the men had been shot at.

Freeport said production at the mine continued as normal.

“Several employees expressed their grief and solidarity in a peaceful manner and operational activity is normal,” Jakarta-based Freeport spokesman Ramdani Sirait said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday.

The police said they would beef up security in the area.

“We will scour the area ... We can’t underestimate this,” the area’s deputy police chief, Mada Laksanta, told Reuters.

The mine has been a frequent source of friction in Papua because of its environmental impact, the low share of revenue going to local Papuans and the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces who help guard the site.

In 2002, two American teachers and an Indonesian companion were killed in an ambush outside the Freeport installation.

Previous deadly attacks blamed on separatists have generally been unsophisticated and the movement is poorly armed. The military and police generally keep a tight rein on the province.

Freeport is the world’s biggest publicly traded copper miner and its Grasberg facility, 3,400 km (2,100 miles) east of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, has the world’s largest recoverable reserves of copper and the largest gold reserves.     It expects to sell 1.0 billion pounds of copper and 1.3 million ounces of gold this year, down from 2010 sales of 1.2 billion pounds of copper and 1.8 million ounces of gold, as the Indonesian unit is expected to mine lower-grade ore at the Grasberg pit, the firm said on its website.      Freeport owns 90.64 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the mine in Papua, while the Indonesian government owns the remainder.  (Reporting by Samuel Wanda and Muhammad Yamin in Timika and Olivia Rondonuwu in Jakarta; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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