Workers’ strike continues at Freeport’s Grasberg copper mine

A workers’ union of gold and copper mining producer PT Freeport Indonesia has denied a statement made by the company’s top executive that the workers had returned to a mining site.

Julian Parorrongan from the Indonesian Workers’ Union said the statement made by PT Freeport’s president director, Armando Mahler, that about 500 workers had returned to work, was untrue.

“There are several workers who are back at work, but they are not workers of the production division. They work for the maintenance department,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Julian said some of the workers who had returned to work were those employed by the copper and gold mine giant’s outsourcing companies. Some of the workers had also returned to work after receiving threats and intimidation from the company’s top management.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s director general for mineral and coal, Thamrin Sihite, who just arrived back in Jakarta from a visit to Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Timika, claimed that the condition there was gradually returning to normal.

He said the company had not paid workers who had been striking since Sept. 15. Earlier reports revealed that their workers’ salaries would be cut by at least Rp 577,000 per day (US$65.7).

Thamrin explained that the ministry had formed two plans to maintain production activities at the mining site. The first was to order the police to guard workers who still wanted to work amid the strike. He claimed that workers who took part in the strike impacted on their colleagues who still wanted to work. The second scenario was the company would request outsourced workers to temporarily replace striking workers so that production could continue.

The government earlier estimated that Freeport might lose $19 million from sales per day due to the strike, which may cut output by 230,000 metric tons of ore a day. The country would also lose $6.7 million per day in state income from the company. About 8,000 employees, or 70 percent of the Freeport workforce at Freeport’s Grasberg mining site, started a month-long strike on Sept. 15 to demand wage increases, raising concerns it may widen a global deficit of the metal used in pipes and wires, and boost prices.

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