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Freeport resumes operations at Indonesian Papua mine

By Staff
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JAKARTA, Feb 26: Activities at a huge mine in Indonesia's remote Papua province owned by a unit of U.S.

company Freeport-McMoRan Copper&Gold Inc. have resumed after protesters left the site, an official said on Sunday.

''We are very pleased to report that the situation at the Grasberg Mine in Papua has been resolved peacefully and our operations resumed at approximately 6 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Saturday,'' spokesman Siddharta Moersjid said.

Operations at the Grasberg mine, believed to have the world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits, were suspended on Wednesday after illegal miners armed with bows and arrows clashed with security officers, soldiers and police the day before.

Moersjid said that only one individual -- a security officer for Freeport Indonesia -- had been hurt.

He said losses due to the disruption had not been determined.

''There are a number of factors needed to be taken into consideration,'' he said, without elaborating.

Grasberg's copper output rose to 793,000 tonnes last year from 515,400 in 2004. Gold production rose to 3.55 million ounces from 1.58 million the previous year.

After reaching an agreement with the company, protesters obstructing access to the site left on Saturday after conducting a tribal ceremony.

Moersjid said the protesters had wanted to benefit from the initiatives and programmes established by the company for locals in the vast province of Papua, which lies at the eastern end of Indonesia.

The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of controversy in Indonesia because of issues ranging from its impact on the environment to the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces that help guard the site.

Illegal miners often enter mining areas in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that is the world's fourth most populous country, rich in mineral resources such as copper, gold and tin.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange hit a record high of ,100 a tonne in February and gold hit a 25-year high of 4.60, although prices of both have since retreated.

REUTERS

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