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May 20, 2013

14 Dead, 14 Missing in Indonesia Mine Tunnel Collapse

by VOA News

Rescue workers in a remote region of West Papua, in eastern Indonesia, have recovered five more bodies from a collapsed tunnel in a gold and copper mine, bringing the death toll to 14, with 14 others still missing and feared dead.

Officials say 38 workers at the Grasberg mine were undergoing safety training at the Big Gossan underground training facility, when the ceiling collapsed Tuesday. Ten miners were pulled alive from the rubble.

Officials say search efforts are being hampered by rock slides.

The confined space and potential instability of the tunnel initially warranted the use of hand tools, until heavy-duty equipment could safely be employed Thursday.

The rescue efforts are being conducted jointly by mine operator PT Freeport Indonesia, local police and the Indonesian military.

Up to 1,000 workers demonstrated near the mine Wednesday, the latest in a string of protests over working conditions that have hindered production over recent years.

In 2011, workers at the Grasberg mine staged a three-month strike that was finally resolved when a significant wage increase was granted.

The Grasberg mine, owned by U.S. mining firm Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Incorporated, is the second-largest copper mine in the world and has the world's largest reserves of gold.

Landslides at the Grasberg mine, which employs 24,000 workers, have claimed 11 lives since 2003.