Freeport Indonesia workers end protest over Covid-19 lockdown


Thousands of employees of Freeport gold mine block a road at Tembagapura district in Mimika on Aug 28, 2020, which started on August 24 as a protest against restrictions on employees mobility by the company as part of implementation of health protocols amid the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 1,000 workers blocked access to the world's biggest gold mine in protest at a company move to shut down visits to their families over virus concerns. - AFP

JAKARTA, Aug 29 (Reuters): Workers at Indonesia's Grasberg gold and copper mine on Friday (Aug 28) ended a protest demanding an easing of a coronavirus lockdown at the mine operated by a local unit of Freeport-McMoran Inc, a workers' representative and the company said.

Mining operations were disrupted after protesters had blocked access to the world's second-largest copper mine since Monday, calling on the company to resume a bus service to allow them to travel to a nearby town, and for a bonus payment.

Yonpis Tabuni, a workers' representative, said by text message that all their demands had been met and the protest had ended.

He shared a video showing workers opening up road blockades, partially shrouded by thick fog and rain, at the mine located at a mountain-top mining complex in the easternmost region of Papua.

"We have reached peace with the management," said another worker who declined to be named, adding that the company had given them a written memo of the agreement.

Freeport Indonesia confirmed on Friday the blockades had been removed after earlier saying the local government had given permission to ease lockdown restrictions.

Riza Pratama, a spokesman for Freeport Indonesia, said on Thursday the company and local government had agreed to ease curbs to allow workers to leave the mine area and visit the nearby town.

Local authorities would allow some workers to leave Grasberg each day after passing rapid test screening for the coronavirus, instead of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, he said.

They would also need to pass a temperature check upon arriving at the nearby town. Pratama said 4,600 workers who had not taken any leave since April would be prioritised.

Freeport employs 13,000 people in Tembagapura, the closest town to the Grasberg mine.

Of those, 389 had tested positive for the coronavirus and all but 28 had recovered, Pratama said on Wednesday.
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