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SBY Calls On Freeport to Intensify Mine Rescue Efforts

SBY Calls On Freeport to Intensify Mine Rescue Efforts

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. to step up rescue efforts at the world’s second-largest copper mine, where 23 people are unaccounted for after a tunnel collapsed, killing five workers.

Mining has been halted since the collapse at the Grasberg complex in Indonesia on May 14, according to a statement from local unit Freeport Indonesia.

Two passages have been cleared to allow heavy machinery access to the accident site, where 38 workers may have been in a classroom at an underground training facility, the company said in a statement on May 17.

Ten survivors have been evacuated and are reported to be in a stable condition, the company said.

“I have asked PT Freeport and apparatus to intensify rescue,” Yudhoyono said in a statement on his official Twitter account. “With the accident in Freeport, I asked all companies in Indonesia to improve the safety of their workers.”

Grasberg in Mimika, Papua, about 3,120 kilometers east of Jakarta, includes underground and open-pit operations and is the world’s second-biggest by output, Freeport said in a March 14 presentation.

The complex generated $3.92 billion of revenue for Freeport last year, or 16 percent of the Phoenix-based company’s sales. Freeport owns 91 percent of the mine, which also produces gold, and Indonesia’s government holds the rest, according to the company’s website.

Accident Investigation    

Freeport Indonesia continues to devote every available resource to the rescue effort, mine general manager Nurhadi Sabirin, who heads the emergency response team, said in a statement on Saturday.

“But as more time passes the possibility of there being any survivors becomes less likely,” he said.

Rescuers spotted six bodies on May 18 but were unable to retrieve them because of falling debris, the Associated Press reported, citing Freeport Indonesia president director Rozik B. Soetjipto.

The labor union is calling on the government to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, said Virgo Solossa, head of Mimika branch of the All-Indonesian Workers Union in the Chemical, Energy and Mining Sectors, whose members include the labor union at Freeport Indonesia.

“The investigation must be transparent and comprehensive to find, not only the cause, but also people that are responsible for the accident,” Solossa said May 17 by phone from Mimika. “We demanded that all operations at Freeport remain halted until the investigation is concluded, that is the least they can do to value the life and the families of the victims.”

Mining Safety    

The government would seek to improve mining safety procedures, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa told reporters in Jakarta on May 17.

“A government team will conduct an investigation and after they’re finished, we will see what needs to be done,” he said. “This can be used as a lesson on how we can strengthen the safety of underground mining.”

Freeport Indonesia was still shipping concentrate as of Saturday, Daisy Primayanti, vice president of corporate communications at the company, said by mobile-phone text message on Saturday.

The company used concentrate that was delivered to the port site before it suspended operations, she said.

Freeport has suspended the negotiation process for the 2013-2015 Collective Labor Agreement because of the accident, it said in the statement. The company and its labor union had started contract negotiations on May 13.

Output at Grasberg was disrupted in 2011 and 2012 after labor unrest and violence. The company said in a February filing that 15 people died and 57 were injured in 37 shooting incidents in and around the complex between July 2009 and Feb. 15 this year.

BHP Billiton Ltd.’s Escondida mine in Chile is the world’s largest copper mine.

ENDS

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