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Freeport's Indonesia output normal after brawl

By Staff
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JAKARTA, May 1 (Reuters) Mining operations were running normally on Monday at Freeport-McMoran Copper&Gold Inc.'s giant Grasberg mine in Indonesia after a weekend clash at a party near the mine.

Nine people were hurt in violence between police and party-goers at a function attended by about 1,000 mine staff and guests in Tembagapura town in the remote Papua province on Saturday.

Tembagapura lies about 10 km (6 miles) from the mine site's milling complex.

''The situation has calmed down since Saturday night. The brawl didn't affect operations. Mining activity is running normally,'' Freeport's spokesman Siddharta Moersjid said.

The Grasberg mine, believed to hold the world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits, has been at the centre of protests over accusations of environmental damage and local demands for a bigger share of mine income.

Miners have been racing to churn out minerals at a record pace to cash in on fast-rising commodity prices. World copper prices have leapt 130 percent to record levels above ,300 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, while gold, at 5 an ounce is at its highest level in a quarter century.

Grasberg churned out 793,000 tonnes of copper last year -- up from 515,400 in 2004. Gold production rose to 3.55 million ounces from 1.58 million in the previous year.

In February, operations at the Grasberg mine came to a halt for four days when prostesters, mostly illegal miners, blocked the road leading to the mine after they clashed with security officers.

REUTERS PV DB1225

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