Landslide leaves thousands stranded at Indonesia mine

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:31 PM

TIMIKA, Indonesia (Reuters) - A weekend landslide buried a key road access tunnel to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, leaving thousands of workers stranded, but a company spokesman said operations were continuing as normal.

Freeport is the world's largest publicly traded copper miner, while Grasberg has the world's largest recoverable reserves of copper and the largest gold reserves.

Saturday's landslide prevented thousands of workers from reaching the mine, situated in the highlands of eastern Papua province, but a helicopter was seen ferrying some staff before cloud and mist descended.

About 60 buses used to transport workers were parked in the lowlands, below the blocked tunnel.

"There was ground failure at Hannekam Tunnel on March 5. The tunnel is currently closed while work is completed to address the failure," spokesman PT Freeport Indonesia spokesman Ramdani Sirait said in an emailed statement.

"This ground failure occurred outside PT Freeport Indonesia's mining area and production continues normally," he added.

Freeport expects to sell 1.0 billion pounds of copper and 1.3 million ounces of gold for this year, down from the 2010 sales of 1.2 billion pounds of copper and 1.8 million ounces of gold, as the Indonesia unit is expected to mine lower grade ore at the Grasberg pit, the firm said in its website.

Freeport owns 90.64 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the huge Grasberg copper and gold mine in Papua province, while the Indonesian government owns the remainder.

Grasberg mine is about 3,350 km (2,080 miles) east of Indonesia's capital Jakarta.

(Reporting by Samuel Wanda; Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia; Editing by David Fox)