JAKARTA, Feb 29 (Reuters) - A stoppage at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia could be resolved within days, with talks between workers and management progressing well, a union official said on Wednesday.
Last week, Freeport Indonesia, which operates the world’s second largest copper mine and the largest gold mine, told its workers not to work due to safety concerns linked to labor unrest.
Attempts to return the mine to normal after the strike last year have been hampered by protracted disputes between management and union workers, as well as by security concerns.
“The mine is still suspended until today,” union spokesman Juli Parorrongan told Reuters, adding that progress was being made in management talks. “We are trying to negotiate to resolve this problem. It is looking good.”
“Not too long ... the operations will be running again and normal again,” Parorrongan added. “Maybe for next week, I think this problem will be resolved.”
Intimidation and violence by some workers against others who did not take part in last year’s strike have disrupted the mine in the highlands of central Papua, the company said on Thursday.
There had been both physical and verbal incidents of intimidation between workers, Parorrongan said, adding that the company had overreacted by halting work at the mine.
“The workers that participated in the strike before, now don’t want to work with those they call betrayers,” Parorrongan added. “They intimidate by speaking to the non-striking workers, calling them betrayers ... some of them were also hit ... (but) these are very individual cases.”
Arizona-based Freeport could not immediately offer comment on Wednesday.
The three-month Grasberg strike ended Dec. 14 with a deal for a pay increase, allowing workers to gradually return to work, but the force majeure has yet to be officially lifted.
“For the big strikes in Chile, they tend to be very quick -- a week or two at the most -- and everybody gets back to work fairly quickly,” Citigroup analyst David Wilson said.
“It looks like a uniquely Indonesian thing ... obviously there seems to be some antagonism between those who broke the strike and those who didn‘t.”
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange traded at $8,657 a tonne by 0936 GMT, versus $8,600 a tonne at the Tuesday’s close.
“You always factor in production losses in your forward expectations,” added Wilson. “If it’s just a day or two of stoppage then it would only have a minimum impact, but if you are talking a couple weeks, you would be getting worried.”
Earlier this month, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc said it wanted to extend its contract with Indonesia’s government to enable it to run the mine beyond 2021.