Another Murder at Freeport McMoRan Mine in Indonesia

Since thousands of workers went on strike in mid-September, nine people have been killed.

Unidentified gunmen on Friday killed a security guard and wounded three police officers at a strike-hit U.S.-owned mine in Indonesia's restive province of Papua, police said.

He was the ninth person to be killed near the Grasberg gold and copper mine, operated by Phoenix-based Freeport McMoRan, since thousands of workers went on strike over wages in mid September.

"The victim died in [the] hospital. He had a gunshot to the head," Mimika district deputy police chief Mada Indra Laksanta told AFP.

The gunmen opened fire from a nearby forest, he said.

The strike has crippled production at the mine, prompting the company in late October to declare force majeure, allowing it to avoid the usual liabilities for failing to meet its contractual obligations.

Earlier this week, unidentified gunmen shot at a Freeport vehicle, wounding a contract worker.

The strikers say they are Freeport's lowest-paid workers in the world and originally demanded increases from a minimum of $1.50 to $30 an hour.

They rejected Freeport's latest offer of a 35% pay hike and now are calling for $4 an hour, to be increased to $7.50 next year.

For decades, natives of the Papua region have rejected their special autonomy status within Indonesia, demanding a referendum on self-determination for the population of 3.6 million people.

Indonesia took over Papua in 1969 and has since faced a low-level insurgency. Human Rights Watch says that Indonesian forces have killed civilians and imprisoned peaceful activists.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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