Six police wounded, one killed in shootings near Indonesia's Freeport mine

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Six police were wounded and one killed in shootings that police alleged on Monday were carried out by a separatist group that aims to disrupt operations at the Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia’s eastern-most province of Papua.

Four of the shootings took place on Monday, while police were already investigating incidents that occurred over the weekend, including the fatal shooting of an officer in Timika on Sunday afternoon.

The armed group police say is behind the shootings has up to 30 “separatist” members led by a man named Sabinus Waker.

The group has carried out earlier shootings in the mine area as well, Papua Police spokesman Suryadi Diaz told Reuters.

“It’s clear they want to disrupt operations at Freeport,” Diaz said.

Diaz said the group is “demanding justice” from the local unit of Freeport-McMoRan Inc, which operates the Grasberg mine, although it was not clear what that might entail.

“Freeport is rich (and) has a big company. The population are poor,” Diaz said.

It was not immediately possible to contact Waker, and it is not known if the group that police say is led by him has a spokesman or other representative.

A spokesman for Freeport’s Indonesian unit said the recent shootings have had no impact on output from Grasberg, the world’s second-biggest copper mine, but he declined to comment further.

Pro-independence rebels in Papua have waged a low-level conflict for decades, raising major concerns over security at Grasberg. Between 2009 and 2015, shootings within the mine project area killed 20 people and wounded 59.

To protect workers and infrastructure, Freeport contributed $21 million toward government-provided security in 2015.

Freeport has been grappling with labor problems at Grasberg and a lengthy dispute with Indonesia over rights to the giant mine that has cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Tom Hogue