Indonesia to summon disaster mine directors

Tunnel collapse killed 28 at major mine
 Indonesia to summon disaster mine directors

Rescue workers in the collapsed Tembagapura mine in Papua, Indonesia (AFP)

The Indonesian government will summon directors of the Freeport Indonesia mining company to explain what caused the collapse of a tunnel in the world’s second largest mine in Papua last week, which killed 28 workers.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday called for a thorough investigation of the incident at the Tembagapura mining complex in Mimika. Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Jero Wacik, said yesterday that he would summon the directors as soon as rescue workers had finished the search for bodies.

Yudhoyono had earlier praised Freeport’s safety system, but said the government “will still need to conduct a thorough investigation to find out the cause of the incident.”

The collapse of the Big Gossan underground tunnel on May 14 buried 38 workers, of whom 28 were found dead. Minister Wacik said Freeport cannot escape the responsibility for the loss of life, even though it has promised to pay compensation. The government will also audit the safety system at the site.

In a company statement today, President Director of Freeport Indonesia, Rozik B. Soetipto, said the company was “deeply grieved,” and said rescue efforts were hampered by limited space in the tunnel and risk of further collapse.

On Monday, two labor rights activists, Fransiskus Xaverius Arief Poyuono and Satya Wijayantara, filed a lawsuit accusing the company of implementing poor work, safety and healthcare standards. “As a citizen, I am concerned about safety and want to protect people, particularly those working for Freeport Indonesia,” Payuono said.

With the support of a lawyer from the Association of People’s Lawyers, they have urged the Indonesian government to end the contract with the company and to pay 25 billion rupiah (around US$2.6 million) in compensation to each of the 10 injured victims, and 50 billion rupiah (US$5.3 million) to the families of the dead.

A similar call also came from Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Union.

 “We urge President Yudhoyono to unseat the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources for failing to monitor the main mining regulator, and also the head of the labor desk in Papua province for failing to pay attention to the K3 [Health and Safety at Work] system,” he said in a statement on Monday.

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