As Rescue Operations End, Freeport Focuses on Mine Safety Review

Workers take part in the rescue effort after an underground training classroom collapsed in Big Gossan at the Grasberg complex in remote West Papua province in this May 17, 2013 picture provided by Freeport Indonesia. (Reuters Photo/Freeport Indonesia)

Workers take part in the rescue effort after an underground training classroom collapsed in Big Gossan at the Grasberg complex in remote West Papua province in this May 17, 2013 picture provided by Freeport Indonesia. (Reuters Photo/Freeport Indonesia)

A day after rescuers pulled the last body from the rubble of a recent mine collapse that killed 28 workers, Freeport has turned its attention to a review of safety measures at its underground operations, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold chief Richard Adkerson said.

“With the recovery work completed we are now focusing on reviewing safety throughout our underground operations and in determining what caused the collapse. We will take all actions required to provide for the safety of our workforce,” Adkerson said in a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Adkerson said that Freeport’s workforce has always been and will continue to be the company’s top priority.

“We will not rest until we are assured we understand the reasons for this tragic event and take all actions possible to prevent this from happening again,” he said.

Adkerson, who arrived in Indonesia four days after the incident, said that the company was now in the process of assembling an outside investigation team comprised of Indonesian and international experts in underground mining and geotechnical science.

“We will be transparent in the investigation and its findings and cooperating with the authorities from the government of Indonesia,” he said.

Freeport Indonesia president director Rozik Soetjipto, speaking at the same occasion, echoed Adkerson’s statements.

“Our priority at the present is to move our field team to specifically inspect work safety conditions at all our underground mining facilities, in line with the guidance from the mine inspector from the Mines and Mineral Resources directorate general,” Rozik said.

Rozik also said that the company had no immediate plans to resume operations at the facility, which is the second-largest copper mine in the world.

“We will conduct a comprehensive investigation, together with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and other independent sides, national or international,” he said.

By late on Tuesday, the final death toll from the collapsed tunnel at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold’s Grasberg complex in Mimika, Papua, reached 28. The 10 survivors of the collapse were recovering well, the company said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered related ministries to review safety at all mines in Indonesia.

Indonesia generated $1.3 billion in operating income from Freeport last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Freeport owns 91 percent of the mine, which also produces gold, and Indonesia’s government holds the rest, according to the company’s website.

With additional reporting from Bloomberg