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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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