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Workers to strike at Grasberg mine

An Indonesian workers union has announced it will begin a one-month strike at the Grasberg mine over safety issues that led to a string of deaths last month.

Five miners died at the Papua copper and gold mine during the month of September. This brings the total number of workers killed at the mine over the last two years to 38.

The CEMWU claim mine management are not being held responsible for the fatalities. The union will take industrial action from 6 November.

The mine is majority-owned by Freeport, however Rio Tinto also has a billion dollar stake in the project and serves on Grasberg’s  operating, technical and sustainable development committees.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of  international union, IndustriALL, says the response from mine owners has not been good enough.

“Rio Tinto made no public statement following two recent fatal incidents at Grasberg. This is unacceptable for a company that says safety of its workers is core to everything it does,” Mr Özkan said.

“It appears the company’s public silence is part of an attempt to keep its name out of press reports on the fatalities. But it’s time for Rio Tinto to own up to its failure and speak openly about what the company will do to ensure these disasters never happen again.”

“Rio Tinto has claimed to us in private that Freeport, not Rio Tinto, manages Grasberg, but that they are now helping Freeport to improve safety performance. However, given Rio Tinto’s huge stake in the mine it’s simply not credible to deny any responsibility for the deaths,” states Özkan.

“And why should we believe Rio Tinto will all of a sudden help make the mine safe, given they’ve invested in the mine for nearly 20 years? It’s no wonder that Rio Tinto has avoided public discussion of worker deaths at Grasberg.”

“With bodies piling up and a strike imminent, Rio Tinto needs to stop hiding behind Freeport and take a more active and public role in making Grasberg a safe place to work,” says Özkan.