thousands of workers at Freeport mine enter 4th day of strikes

Around 8,000 workers at a gold and copper mine in the eastern region of Indonesia entered their fourth day of strikes, local media reported Thursday.

Since Monday, workers at Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc’s Grasberg Mine, which is located in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, began a 7-day strike, demanding their salaries be doubled from $1.5 to $3 an hour, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Freeport Indonesia’s Labor Union chief Virgo Solossa said that out of Freeport’s eight companies, its Indonesian unit is the biggest contributor; however, workers around the world are paid between $15 and $30, which is around ten times more than those in Grasberg Mine. On Monday morning, thousands of workers marched from Timika city to Kuala Kencana, the Freeport town complex, and are planning to continue their strike over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Freeport’s regional spokesman, Ramdani Sirait, who is based in Jakarta, said the company believes the workers’ strike has no legitimate justification, making it unlawful because “it is not due to failed negotiation nor the company’s unwillingness to negotiate.”

Grasberg Mine, the world’s largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine, employs some 19,500 people. In 2006, it produced 610,800 tons of copper; 58,474,392 grams of gold; and 174,458,971 grams of silver.

The mine has been linked to regional friction, as locals argue that only a small fraction of the mine’s revenue goes to the workers and regional development. Furthermore, friction has also been linked to the mine’s environmental impact, as it is located in what used to be a small equatorial mountain glacier on the high point of Puncak Jaya, Indonesia’s highest mountain. In addition, Papua and West Papua have had an insurgency movement for the past decades, fighting for independence, and struggling to control its rich natural resources.

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