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50 catch Covid-19 at world's largest gold mine

Operations will continue despite outbreak, Freeport Indonesia says

50 catch Covid-19 at world's largest gold mine

Security personnel at the Freeport-McMoRan mine inspect a vehicle at a checkpoint in Timika, Papua, in this file photo. Local authorities say more than 50 workers at the mine have been infected with Covid-19. (Photo: AFP)

More than 50 workers at Freeport McMoRan Indonesia, an international mining giant operating in Papua, have been infected with Covid-19, local authorities said.

About 7,000 workers, including 145 foreign nationals, work at the Grasberg mining site — the world’s largest gold mine and the second-largest copper mine — in Papua’s Mimika district.

The Mimika Covid-19 Task Force said at least 51 people connected to the mine had been infected with Covid-19.

"Nine of them were hospitalized … while 42 were undergoing self-isolation," task force spokesman Raynold Ubra told reporters.

He said Freeport management has provided a quarantine area for workers confirmed to have the deadly disease.

Riza Pratama, a Freeport Indonesia vice-president, said the company would continue to offer full cooperation to the government’s Covid-19 task force.

He said that despite the confirmed cases, operations would continue following government health protocols including physical distancing and routine health monitoring.

According to Pratama, mining activities must continue to support local and national economic interests. "Nevertheless, we will ensure that the security and health of the workers are our priority,” he said.

To prevent the transmission of the deadly virus, he said, employees would not be able to leave the site and would strictly follow health protocols.

The company has also closed schools, worship places, restaurants and cafes around the Freeport complex.

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Sacred Heart Father Ansel Amo, who heads Merauke Archdiocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission in Papua, said he was concerned for the workers’ welfare.

“Freeport management should limit workers’ activities so that they don’t transmit the disease to other people, including local people,” he told UCA News. “They should stop its operations temporarily.”

As of May 4, Indonesia had recorded 11,587 Covid-19 cases, of which 240 were in Papua, and 864 deaths including six in Papua.

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