Freeport Halts Grasberg Mine as Roadblock Enters 4th Day

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. halted production at Grasberg, the world’s second-largest copper mine by capacity, as workers blocked access to a road to the mine in Indonesia for a fourth day. The price of the metal climbed in London.

Freeport will continue talks with the workers to resolve the blockade, Daisy Primayanti, spokeswoman at PT Freeport Indonesia, said in a mobile phone text message on Thursday. The company suspended output starting Monday, while concentrate shipments remain unaffected from old stockpiles, said Juli Parorrongan, a spokesman for Freeport Indonesia workers’ union.

The blockade by about 50 workers wasn’t organized by the union and it isn’t aware of the workers demand or the reason for the roadblock, Parorrongan said. The striking workers from seven tribes in Papua are seeking promotion as incentives for not participating in a labor dispute last year, Kompas.com reported on March 16.

“We appreciate the workers’ rights to express their opinions,” Parorrongan said. “But we hope all issues can be appropriately addressed without harming the company.”

Copper for delivery in three months climbed as much as 2.8 percent to $5,830 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange.

Freeport shares tumbled as much as 6.3 percent, the biggest intraday drop in seven weeks. They closed 5.3 percent lower at $17.26 in New York.

Operations at Grasberg in the mountainous region of Papua have been plagued by labor strife in recent years. The mine saw a strike in 2011 as workers sought higher wages and was closed for months following a tunnel collapse in 2013 that killed 28 workers. Exports were disrupted last year after a dispute with the Indonesian government over export duties.

Primayanti had said on Wednesday that the impact from the roadblock to mine operations was insignificant.

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