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Solidarity mission in the wake of disaster at Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg copper mine

26 September, 2013In the wake of the industrial accident at the Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia, trade union delegates travelled to the region on a solidarity mission in September.

In May the roof on a non-operational underground tunnel collapsed during a training session at the Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia killing 28 miners. The accident, which can only be described as industrial homicide, killed 28 mineworkers, all members of CEMWU FSPKEP-SPSI. On 15-18 September, Andrew Vickers, chairperson of the mining sector at IndustriALL Global Union and General Secretary of CFMEU in Australia, led a high-level global solidarity mission to Indonesia to lend international support to CEMWU FSPKEP-SPSI.

The mission included delegates from the United Steelworkers of America and the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, and was accompanied by IndustriALL Global Union’s Director of Mining, Glen Mpufane. During the three days, the mission delegates met with the management of PT Freeport Indonesia, as well as government representatives from the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Minerals, and the Ministry Manpower and Transmigration.

An investigation into the accident has been held, and from which CEMWU (FSPKEP-SPSI) was barred from active participation. The findings of the investigation could not be made public even though the report was not classified. This has led to a lawsuit being filed against the company by a human rights lawyer in Indonesia, although compensation has been paid to the families of the victims.

 “We learned with horror that the cause of the accident was that the roof collapsed due to faulty lines along the rooftop and deterioration of ground support bolts, and as such no one could be held accountable,” Andrew Vickers says.

The mission’s conclusion, supported by the CEMWU FSPKEP-SPSI, was that the cause of the accident was management negligence. No evidence of inspections or risk assessment performed before the accident could be provided.

“The mission also concluded that the accident clearly illustrates the urgent need for the ratification of ILO Convention 176 in Indonesia. IndustriALL Global Union is committed to lend our support to speed up this process,” says Glen Mpufane.