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Freeport Indonesia workers end protest over COVID-19 lockdown

Credit: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO

Workers at Indonesia's Grasberg gold and copper mine on Friday ended a protest demanding an easing of a coronavirus lockdown at the mine operated by a local unit of Freeport-McMoran Inc, a workers' representative and the company said.

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Workers at Indonesia's Grasberg gold and copper mine on Friday ended a protest demanding an easing of a coronavirus lockdown at the mine operated by a local unit of Freeport-McMoran Inc, a workers' representative and the company said.

Mining operations were disrupted after protesters had blocked access to the world's second-largest copper mine since Monday, calling on the company to resume a bus service to allow them to travel to a nearby town, and for a bonus payment.

Yonpis Tabuni, a workers' representative, said by text message that all their demands had been met and the protest had ended.

He shared a video showing workers opening up road blockades, partially shrouded by thick fog and rain, at the mine located at a mountain-top mining complex in the easternmost region of Papua.

"We have reached peace with the management," said another worker who declined to be named, adding that the company had given them a written memo of the agreement.

Freeport Indonesia confirmed on Friday the blockades had been removed after earlier saying the local government had given permission to ease lockdown restrictions.

Riza Pratama, a spokesman for Freeport Indonesia, said on Thursday the company and local government had agreed to ease curbs to allow workers to leave the mine area and visit the nearby town.

Local authorities would allow some workers to leave Grasberg each day after passing rapid test screening for the coronavirus, instead of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, he said.

They would also need to pass a temperature check upon arriving at the nearby town.

Pratama said 4,600 workers who had not taken any leave since April would be prioritised.

Freeport employs 13,000 people in Tembagapura, the closest town to the Grasberg mine. Of those, 389 had tested positive for the coronavirus and all but 28 had recovered, Pratama said on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Martin Petty)

((Fransiska.Nangoy@thomsonreuters.com; +62 21 2992 7610; Reuters Messaging: fransiska.nangoy.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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