March 18, 2006

Police detain 11 more after Papua clashes

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities have detained
another 11 people in Papua province after three policemen and a
soldier died in clashes with protesters demanding closure of a
giant U.S.-run mine, police said on Saturday.

Fifty-seven people had already been detained after
Thursday's violence in the provincial capital, Jayapura, on the
northeastern shore of Papua, about 3,500 km (2,200 miles) from

The clashes sparked fears of more protests against U.S.
firm Freeport-McMoran Cooper & Gold Inc, which runs the mine.

Tensions have been running high in the area in recent days
and, on Friday, police fired shots into the air as they
patrolled the city. Three people were hurt in the incident.

Last month mine operations were halted for four days before
protesters, mostly illegal miners, left the site near the town
of Timika, about 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Jayapura.

The mine has been operating normally this week.

"The number of people detained has increased from 57 to
68," Papua police spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra said on

"Our team is still searching for those responsible for the
criminal activities ... We have found the perpetrators'
identities and formed an investigating team to hunt for them."

He said 10 people had been declared suspects, but gave no

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has rejected demands for
the immediate closure of the mining operation, the country's
largest taxpayer, but said he would assign ministers to examine
social grievances related to the mine.

There have been sporadic protests, both in Papua and
Jakarta, since the February shutdown. Issues range from illegal
miners seeking access to the mine area to the demands for
closure of the mine, believed to have the world's third-largest
copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits.

Illegal miners often enter mining areas in Indonesia, a
sprawling archipelago with huge deposits of such metals as
copper, gold and tin.

The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of
controversy over its environmental impact, the share of revenue
going to Papuans, and the legality of payments to Indonesian
security forces who help guard the site.