American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan is paying the same local police who have used violence against mine workers asking for better wages
Indonesia police clash with workers of mining giant Freeport-McMoran during a protest on October 10. Indonesian security forces fired on striking workers at Freeport-McMoran's gold and copper mine after a protest turned violent early Monday, killing one, officials said. / AP
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Up in the remote mountains of West Papua, Indonesia, a road winds along steep cliffs, tall trees, and security checkpoints to the world's richest copper and gold mine. More than four thousand meters above sea level, the mine is said to be so high that its mining trucks must be tracked via satellite, as clouds typically cloak them from view. Adding to the isolation, the American mining company, Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan, rarely allows visitors to enter its facilities. The access road is for official vehicles only, and foreign journalists are almost exclusively forbidden.
Yet despite its cover, Freeport's giant Grasberg mine is on high alert. Production there has ground to a near halt as 8,000 workers strike for better wages, currently set between $1.50 and $3 an hour. Now in its third month, this strike is not only the longest in Indonesian mining history, but also one of the more violent, with sabotage to pipelines and deadly attacks on company employees. "We don't feel secure to work at Freeport or to travel between the mine and our homes," said Juli Parorrongan, a spokesman for the All Indonesian Workers Union, which organized the strike. "Too many people have been killed, but we don't know who's shooting us. We need the police to protect us."