February 25, 2006

Protesters call off blockade of Freeport’s Papua mine

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Protesters obstructing access to a huge
mine owned by a unit of U.S. firm Freeport-McMoRan Copper &
Gold Inc. in Indonesia's remote Papua province called off their
blockade on Saturday, but it was unclear whether the mine had
resumed operations, a senior police official said.

Operations at the Grasberg mine, believed to have the
world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest
gold deposits, were suspended on Wednesday after illegal miners
armed with bows and arrows clashed with security officers,
soldiers and police the day before.

"All of the protesters left after conducting a tribal
ceremony. There is no more blockade and all access to the mine
is normal," said deputy national police spokesman Anton Bachrul

He said details of any agreement were not known and it was
not clear if the mine had resumed operations.

John Meyer, an analyst at Numis, said this week that the
suspension could cost around 1,800 tonnes of copper and 9,000
ounces of gold production per day.

The violence erupted after security officers and government
officials tried to force out the illegal miners, who then
blockaded access to the heavily-guarded mine.

Indonesia had put its military in charge of security there.
The Indonesian military has often been criticized for harsh
tactics and human rights abuse, especially in restive areas
like Papua, although efforts at reform have been made in recent

The Freeport Papua operation has been a frequent source of
controversy in Indonesia on issues ranging from its treatment
of the environment to the legality of payments to Indonesian
security forces who help guard operations.

Illegal miners often enter mining areas in Indonesia, the
world's fourth most populous country and a sprawling
archipelagic nation, rich in mineral resources such as copper,
gold and tin.