Reuters reported, from Jakarta, May 14, a collapse at the training tunnel on Tuesday at the world’s second largest copper mine in eastern Indonesia, the mine’s owner, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, stated that it trapped minimum 33 workers underground.
The Arizona-based firm denied any deaths had occurred, but earlier reports, a mine official at the scene, had said three workers were killed in the accident.
Rescue teams were on their way at the remote Grasberg mine in West Papua province. The company said output at the mine, which also has the world’s largest gold reserves and employs over 24,000 contract and non-contract workers, was not likely to be significantly affected.
The company said in a statement “A tunnel in the underground training area collapsed, trapping a number of employees,” and added “The rescue process is difficult and will take some time to complete.”
The statement said when it collapsed early on Tuesday; at least 40 workers had been in an underground training facility. Three people escaped uninjured, while four were rescued and received medical treatment.
The statement included “Freeport Indonesia does not expect this event to have a material effect on mining and milling operations or development activities,”
The company said that the government authorities had been informed.
The collapse is one of a sequence of worker-related incidents at the mine in recent months.
The last major strike at Freeport Indonesia, in 2011, lasted for three months, caused copper and gold output to fall 15% and it was longest ever industrial clash in Indonesia.
Freeport Indonesia says its sales are expected to reach 1.1 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 million ounces of gold in 2013, an increase by 54% and 31% over 2012 figures, as mining moves into higher metal grades.