Freeport Reaches Agreement with Miners

JAKARTA ~ Thousands of mine workers in Papua province have returned to work after a subsidiary of US firm Freeport McMoRan agreed to salary and benefit demands, a labor activist said.

“We finally reached an agreement last night at around 11pm and today all workers who are on shift have returned to work,” Penina Karma, secretary general of Tongi Papua, a non-governmental organization involved in the three-day protest and the negotiations, said on Sunday.

More than 2,000 workers from the giant gold and copper Grasberg mine started protesting peacefully last week at the headquarters of PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the mine, just outside the town of Timika.

The protracted dispute centers on demands for higher wages, improved welfare, and better access to higher-level jobs for Papuan workers.

The rally helped push world copper prices to US$8,000 a ton amid concerns disruptions could lead to a drop in stockpiles of the metal.

Karma said that the agreement had been reached with the executives of Freeport Indonesia and there was no reason to take the dispute further.

The protestors had initially demanded a teleconference with Freeport McMoRan executives in the United States.

Mine workers had demanded a minimum monthly wage of at least Rp3.2 million ($352). The negotiations finally settled on a range of Rp3.1-3.6 million, Karma said.

A spokesman for Freeport Indonesia could not be immediately reached for comment.

The protestors, mostly native mine hands, and Freeport Indonesia, had agreed for a special department to be set up within the company to deal with Papuan affairs.

Freeport Indonesia had already agreed to a management reshuffle, Karma said. Executives have been accused of discriminating against native labor.

Critics accuse Freeport Indonesia of not giving enough to the people of Papua in return for mining rights. They allege the mine causes pollution and that the military’s protection of the site leads to human rights abuses.

The firm disputes the claims.

Freeport Indonesia operates concessions totaling 3.6 million hectares stretching from the coast to the central mountain range at Timika, with its copper reserves estimated at 2.6 billion tons.

It runs its Grasberg mine in southwest Papua under a 30-year contract with the government that began in 1992. Freeport McMoRan owns 91 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, with the rest in government hands.

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