JAKARTA/TIMIKA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Armed separatists have occupied five villages in Indonesia’s Papua province, threatening to disrupt Freeport-McMoRan Inc’s giant Grasberg copper mine, which has already been hit this year by labor unrest and a dispute over operating rights.
A state of emergency has been declared and around 300 additional security forces have been deployed to the mining area of the eastern province after a string of shootings since Aug. 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.
“They want to disrupt Freeport’s operations,” said Suryadi Diaz, a spokesman for the Papua police. “(Freeport) is rich but they are poor, so they just want justice,” Diaz said, adding that the militants were a splinter group of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).
Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company was “deeply concerned” about security and was using armored cars and helicopters to ferry workers to and from the Grasberg mine in the province’s Mimika regency.
He said attacks had been launched along the road near the town of Tembagapura, about 10 km (6 miles) from the mine, where families of employees – including expatriates – live. He added that so far there had been no impact on production and shipments from Grasberg, the world’s second-biggest copper mine.