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.
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.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.