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Freeport Death Toll Rises to Eleven as CEO Adkerson Arrives

The death toll from an accident at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s mine in Papua province rose to 11 as Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson arrived in Indonesia.

Mining has been halted since a tunnel collapsed at the Grasberg complex on May 14. The company’s rescue team retrieved three bodies overnight and another two yesterday, local unit PT Freeport Indonesia said in statements today and yesterday. Of 38 workers who had been in a classroom in an underground training facility at the time of the accident, 10 have been rescued and 17 are believed still buried under the rubble.

Phoenix-based Adkerson flew into Timika in Papua on May 18 and, together with Freeport Indonesia President Director Rozik B. Soetjipto, has been visiting injured workers and the families of those still missing, Freeport said in a separate statement yesterday. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on Freeport to step up rescue efforts at the world’s second-largest copper mine.

“I have asked PT Freeport and apparatus to intensify rescue,” Yudhoyono said in a statement posted on his official Twitter account May 16. “With the accident in Freeport, I asked all companies in Indonesia to improve the safety of their workers.”

Accident Investigation

Grasberg in Mimika, Papua province, about 3,120 kilometers (1,940 miles) east of Jakarta, includes underground and open-pit operations and is the world’s second-biggest by output, Freeport said in a March 14 presentation. The complex generated $3.92 billion of revenue for Freeport last year, or 16 percent of the company’s sales. Freeport owns 91 percent of the mine, which also produces gold, and Indonesia’s government holds the rest, according to the company’s website.

The government should conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, said Virgo Solossa, head of the Mimika branch of the All-Indonesian Workers Union in the Chemical, Energy and Mining Sectors, whose members include the labor union at Freeport Indonesia.

“The investigation must be transparent and comprehensive to find, not only the cause, but also people that are responsible for the accident,” Solossa said May 17 by phone from Mimika. “We demanded that all operations at Freeport remain halted until the investigation is concluded, that is the least they can do to value the life and the families of the victims.”

The government would seek to improve mining safety procedures, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa told reporters in Jakarta May 17.

Safety Lesson

“A government team will conduct an investigation and after they’re finished, we will see what needs to be done,” he said. “This can be used as a lesson on how we can strengthen the safety of underground mining.”

Freeport Indonesia was still shipping concentrate as of May 17, Daisy Primayanti, vice president of corporate communications at the company, said by mobile-phone text message on May 18. The company used concentrate that was delivered to the port site before it suspended operations, she said.

Freeport has halted the negotiation process for the 2013-2015 Collective Labor Agreement because of the accident, it said in the statement. The company and its labor union had started contract negotiations on May 13.

Output at Grasberg was disrupted in 2011 and 2012 after labor unrest and violence. The company said in a February filing that 15 people died and 57 were injured in 37 shooting incidents in and around the complex between July 2009 and Feb. 15 this year.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)’s Escondida mine in Chile is the world’s largest copper mine.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yoga Rusmana in Jakarta at yrusmana@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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