Freeport Indonesia Workers Call Off Strike, Continue Maintenance

PT Freeport Indonesia workers called off a strike planned for today that would have halted maintenance at the world’s biggest copper mine, after the company suspended officials held responsible for an accident, according to a union official.

Workers will continue maintenance as normal at the Grasberg deposit, where output has stopped since the tunnel collapse on May 14 that killed 28 people, Virgo Solossa, an official at the All Indonesian Workers Union, said by phone today.

The continued maintenance means Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. will be able to restart production and resume shipments more quickly once it gets approval from the government, which has said the mine will stay shut until after a probe is completed. Investigators will report the results to the energy ministry by early next week, Ridho Wattimena, head of an independent team, said by phone yesterday.

An official at Freeport Indonesia did not comment today when asked whether it had suspended the managers the union holds responsible for the accident. Daisy Primayanti, its vice president of corporate communications, confirmed in a phone text message that the union had canceled the strike.

Freeport on June 12 declared force majeure on shipments from the mine, a clause that allows it to miss obligations because of circumstances beyond its control. It said the shutdown is cutting copper output by 1,361 tons a day, equal to 2.9 percent of average daily global production in 2013. The stoppage has buoyed benchmark copper prices, which rose as much as 1.3 percent to $7,141.75 a metric ton today on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $7,087.

Smelters in Indonesia and Japan have said they are looking for alternative ore supply because of the shutdown.

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