Another slap in the face for mining giant Freeport occurred on Friday as a worker suffered major injuries after an incident at the American company’s Deep Ore Zone (DOZ) facility in Papua.
Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan’s subsidiary, PT Freeport Indonesia, announced on Friday that the incident at the underground mining site took place only two weeks after a deadly cave-in during maintenance activities on May 14.
“Wet ore material or sludge flowed from an ore bin, covering a truck and its operator,” Freeport Indonesia spokeswoman Daisy Primayanti said in a statement.
“The circumstances of this incident are inconsistent with the company’s established safety protocol for handling sludge and is being investigated.”
She maintained, however, that the incident was not the result of a collapse in the mine, citing that it “has been incorrectly reported” by several online media sources and thus “does not in any way reflect upon the integrity of the mine”.
Daisy said the company regretted the accident.
The truck operator, which the company did not identify, was taken to Tembagapura Hospital and was in a critical condition, according to the firm’s statement.
Meanwhile, the Papua Police identified the No. 138 truck operator as Herman Wahid.
“Herman Wahid was buried by sludge at the loading Point 1 Charlie DOZ underground and was rescued immediately. He was still breathing when rushed to the hospital,” Papua Police chief spokesman Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya said in Jayapura.
He added that the accident took place at about 1:40 p.m. local time (11:40 a.m. Jakarta time).
The DOZ mine, an underground block cave, is located a few kilometers from the giant Grasberg open-mine site, with a production capacity of 80,000 tons of ore per day.
The mine is located 2.1 kilometers from the underground training facility near another site, the Big Gossan mine, in which 28 workers died following a collapsed tunnel. Ten other workers survived in the collapse.
Earlier this week, Freeport Indonesia president director Rozik B. Soetjipto said that the company was going to restart production activities at the Grasberg open-mine site — which produces 140,000 tons of ore per day — while only maintaining its underground mining facility until it receives approval from the government to restart its producing activities.
Freeport has planned to invest US$15 billion in developing underground mining operations at the Grasberg mine.
The new site, which will be called the Grasberg block cave mine, is expected to begin operations in 2017 with an estimated production of 160,000 tons of ore per day at full capacity.
The combined production from the planned Grasberg block cave mine with the existing DOZ mine would bring Freeport’s production in Papua to around 240,000 tons of ore per day or 9 percent higher than the current output capacity.
Separately, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s mineral director, Dede Indra Suhendra, told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview the government had immediately sent a mining inspector to Papua to investigate Friday’s incident.
“We have sent the inspector to investigate the latest incident in order to avoid the same thing happening again in other sites,” he said on Friday.
Dede, however, said that the government had yet to take action against Freeport — one of the country’s biggest taxpayers — given that this was the second incident this month as the government was still currently inspecting the company’s mining sites in Papua.
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