News / Asia

Workers Blame Freeport for Fatal Incident at Giant Papua Mine

Members of Indonesian Workers Union (SPSI) pray outside the Ministry of Energy And Natural Resources in Jakarta, Indonesia during a solidarity rally for the victims of the collapsed mine at a Freeport mining area in Papua province, May 21, 2013.
Members of Indonesian Workers Union (SPSI) pray outside the Ministry of Energy And Natural Resources in Jakarta, Indonesia during a solidarity rally for the victims of the collapsed mine at a Freeport mining area in Papua province, May 21, 2013.
Kate Lamb
Mine workers in West Papua, Indonesia, are raising questions about safety standards at a giant gold and copper mine where an underground training facility collapsed last week, killing dozens of miners. The Freeport Workers’ Union says the company ignored employee complaints that could have prevented the fatal incident.

Freeport workers were attending a safety training session when the tunnel to the Freeport McMoRan underground training facility collapsed last Tuesday.

Ten people managed to escape, five were killed instantly and 23 others were trapped inside. Despite intensive rescue efforts this week, there have been no further survivors.  The final death tally reached 28.

Freeport McMoRan has rushed to generously compensate the victims’ families, including providing scholarships for their children.

But questions remain about the safety standards of the underground training facility.

Freeport Workers Union official Virgo Solossa said the company could have done more to ensure safety standards.

Solossa said that during evaluations of regular training sessions conducted by Freeport, many workers had expressed concern about the safety of the underground training facility.

He said the incident could have been avoided if the training center had been moved above ground as repeatedly requested by the workers.

He said Freeport did not care and never responded to the complaints.

But at a joint news conference Wednesday with Indonesia's Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, Freeport McMoRan President and CEO Richard Adkerson said he had no reason to believe safety standards at the training facility were sub-par.

“I told Mr. Minister that had I been there that day I would have joined our workers in that mine because we had no concerns or fears about its safety. And, that’s why we need to understand why this happened. We did not consider this a dangerous place. If we had had any indication of danger we would have never have had people in there,” Adkerson said.

Adkerson said that safety in all underground mining operations will be reviewed and the company will be transparent about its findings.

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik  also confirmed that an independent team, including Indonesian and international specialists in geotechnical science and underground mining, will investigate the cause of the incident.

Operations at the giant Grasberg mine have been suspended since the tunnel collapsed and will not be resumed until the investigation is complete.

And, although Freeport has a solid track record in terms of safety, mining analyst Kurtubi said this incident proves otherwise.

“They try to be good in safety, but what has happened in this tragedy is proof that safety procedures at Freeport actually are not as good as we thought before. We know that this is underground mining, but as a global mining company, Freeport should strictly meet the procedures,” said Kurtubi.

The Freeport mine is located in the remote region of West Papua, a province where separatists have long fought for independence and where access for foreign journalists has long been restricted.

Workers demanding improved safety conditions are reported to have been protesting outside the mine for the past week.

In recent years, workers at the mine have paralyzed production during consecutive-month-long strikes because of wage disputes.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid