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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More