Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – Nickel mining company Gunbuster Nickel Industry will resume operations at its smelter in Central Sulawesi on Tuesday, three days after hundreds of local workers staged a rally and burned heavy machinery and vehicles which triggered clashes and killed at least two workers, National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said on Monday.
Listyo said the clash began after some workers forced others to go on strike and they turned violent over rumors that a colleague had been beaten by foreign workers at the facility.
Elements of the union called for a strike amid ongoing negotiations about their demand for better work conditions, the police chief said.
"The provocation led to attacks but now police managed to control the situation. At least 71 people were arrested and so far 17 of them have been named criminal suspects," Listyo said in a news conference at the presidential palace in Jakarta streamed live by BTV.
A joint force of 548 personnel from the police and the army has been deployed to the scene to ensure security, Listyo added.
"The GNI smelter will resume operations tomorrow morning and I call on all community members and workers not to be easily provoked by unfounded claims," he said, mentioning the company by initials.
"Police will take stern measures against those committed to vandalism and anarchy and it is our hope that there will be no recurrence of this. The National Police and the TNI [Indonesian Military] are committed to safeguarding and securing government policies, including programs related to investment," Listyo said.
The nickel smelter in the district of North Morowali that absorbs large investments from China is part of the central government's ambition to boost exports of processed minerals and commodities under President Joko Widodo's policy to stop the export of raw commodities.
Listyo denied allegations that the clash was triggered by the discriminatory policies of the company, which has over 1,000 Chinese employees.
"The company has around 1,300 foreign skilled workers and 11,000 Indonesian workers. The number of local workers will be increased to 30,000 in the near future," Listyo said.
"The decision to resume operation was taken by the management after they were convinced that security had been restored," he said.