Thu, Jul 14, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Freeport McMoRan workers return to Papua gold mine

AFP, TIMIKA, Indonesia

Workers at US company Freeport McMoRan’s giant gold and copper mine in Indonesia’s Papua region returned to work yesterday, ending a strike over wages that had lasted more than a week.

Workers and the management agreed late on Tuesday to review employment contracts that cover wages and welfare, union official Virgo Solossa told reporters.

“The workers returned to work today. We are grateful that the management is agreeable to our demands [for a review],” he said.

Production at the mine was disrupted after more than 8,000 workers, including many ethnic Melanesian Papuans, went on strike on July 4. There are more than 11,000 employees at the mine, according to union figures. Many of the workers say they earn a maximum of around US$4 an hour compared to about US$40 for other Freeport employers around the world.

The Freeport mine sits on some of the world’s richest gold reserves and the US company’s local subsidiary is the largest single taxpayer to the Indonesian government, contributing billions of US dollars a year to state coffers.

Papua, a resource-rich region on New Guinea island, has been the site of a low-level separatist insurgency since its incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s.

Many indigenous Papuans say they are being exploited and have sought help from the international community, but their complaints go largely unheard.

Foreign journalists and aid workers are barred from freely entering the remote region to independently verify claims of genocide and gross human rights abuses against the Papuan people.

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