Thousands of Workers Strike for Third Day at Indonesia Mine

July 6, 2011
Freeport McMoRan's plant employs 11,000 people.

Production at a major mine run by U.S. firm Freeport McMoRan in Indonesia's Papua region was disrupted on July 6 as a strike by thousands of workers demanding better wages entered a third day.

More than 8,000 workers have been protesting outside the company's headquarters, and a 300-strong group blocked the main route to the huge gold and copper mine north of the coastal city of Timika on July 6.

"There's nobody operating the machines and nobody working at the underground mine," union spokesman Virgo Solossa said, adding that shipments were also suspended. "We usually have 120 trucks per day to transport materials from the mining site but there are only 10 trucks today," he added.

A local police chief Sudirman said that 300 workers blocked the main access road to the mining area.

There are more than 11,100 employees at the mine, according to February data provided by the company's union.

Solossa said workers are demanding higher wages, as their current income is the lowest among McMoRan employees in other countries.

"Freeport Indonesia is the biggest income contributor but our salary is nothing compared to other employees overseas," he said, adding that the Papua workers only earn up to $3 an hour compared to as much as $30 elsewhere.

Freeport spokesman Ramdani Sirait was not available for comment but in a statement said the strike had not affected the company's "concentrate shipments."

The Freeport mine sits on some of the world's richest gold reserves and the company's local subsidiary is the largest single taxpayer to the Indonesian government.

Papua, a resource-rich region on the western end of New Guinea island, has been the site of a low-level separatist insurgency since its incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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