Indonesia looks at resuming Freeport mine

Indonesia’s government is looking at restarting open-pit mining at Freeport McMoran the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources said on Tuesday.

The announcement comes after a mine collapse five weeks ago halted operations and killed 28 workers.

The Freeport mine collapsed mid-May after a tunnel caved in. The Big Gossan underground training facility collapsed and trapped 38 workers who were training in the classroom.

Government officials were investigating the collapse and the final report was handed to the Minerals Ministry on Monday, Reuters reported.

“Freeport has passed on a letter (requesting) permission to reopen open-pit,” Energy and Minerals Resources Minister Jero Wacik told reporters.

“We will decide this week whether to allow the open pit (to reopen) or not.”

According to the Jakarta Globe newspaper, Wacik said it would be decided next week whether the copper and gold mine would reopen.

A government official had said earlier this month Freeport cannot resume production at the mine for another two months until investigations are complete.

The leader of the investigation said last week the preliminary conclusions of the investigations were deliberated on at the ministerial level.

But union officials from Papua-based Freeport do not want production to restart until all investigations in the mine tunnel collapse conclude.

They also wish to look at the final report to see if Freeport employs all the recommendations.

“The open pit (mine) is relatively safer, but the steep slopes still need to be monitored closely,” Wacik told a news conference on Tuesday.

“The underground (mine) is still shut.”

“There are indications (from the investigation) that the ground movements were caused by weathering (or) corrosion,” he said about the mine collapse.

Arizona-based Freeport proclaimed force majeure last Wednesday so it is no longer compelled to deliver copper concentrate from its Grasberg mine.

Rescue efforts were hampered at one stage as the ground and roof needed to be stabilised due to falling rocks.

Maintenance duties are continuing on the mine even though production was halted one day after the tunnel collapse.

Freeport posted pictures of the rescue efforts on their Facebook page, with one photo showing the rescue team praying before beginning its efforts.

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