Indonesia's huge Freeport gold mine resumes operations after lockdown protest

TIMIKA (Indonesia), Aug 30 (AFP): Operations have resumed at the world's biggest gold mine in Indonesia, the company that runs it said in a statement, after workers blocked access to the site in protest at being stopped from visiting their families over virus concerns.

The miners at the Grasberg complex in the country's easternmost Papua region reached an agreement with the US-based operator Freeport, which said it would resume bus services for workers to return home.

This week more than 1,000 employees demonstrated at the mine's main entrance over the decision to cancel bus services to the city of Timika in response to fears about the spread of coronavirus infections.

Many workers had been unable to leave the site -- a high-altitude open pit that is also a major copper mine -- for six months.

Freeport spokesman Riza Pratama told AFP on Saturday (Aug 29) that the roadblock had been removed after a long negotiation period.

Several buses departed from the mine late Friday, carrying some workers who had been granted a leave of absence, said local company spokesman Kerry Yarangga.

These bus services will be run with stringent health protocols including Covid-19 testing, Yarangga said.

In May, Freeport said it would reduce the number of staff at the mine, which employed about 25,000 people, after infections rose in the area. - AFP
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