Jakarta – Gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) denied on Thursday reports about the company's plan to lay off more workers as the end nears of open-pit operations at the Grasberg mine in Mimika, Papua.
"There is no plan to reduce the number of workers," said PTFI spokesman Riza Pratama in Timika, Papua, as quoted by Antara.
He acknowledged, however, that open-pit mining was near completion and underground mining would be the focus in the future. He said production from the underground mining during the transitional period up to 2020 would be lower than that from open-pit mining.
"In the next two years, there will be a transitional period during which the underground mining will not reach maximal production," Riza said.
He added that this would affect the revenue of the corporation and would certainly affect the amount of partnership funds that would be disbursed to support local development programs in surrounding areas in Mimika.
"We hope that the transitional period will take no longer than three years and production can be increased. If the production increases, the partnership funds will also be much higher," he stressed.
PTFI plans to operate a mining train at the underground mine. The company is still waiting for an agreement from the provincial administration to operate the equipment. The miner has also allocated US$2.6 billion for constructing a smelter in Gresik, East Java, which will have a capacity of 2 million dry metric tons (dmt) of copper concentrate annually.
In early 2017, the company laid off 3,340 workers when the government declined to extend the export permit for the concentrate. (bbn).