Jakarta – The regent of Mimika in Papua has urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to temporarily close a mine in the regency owned by gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia as the number of COVID-19 cases in the area continues to rise.
"Human lives are at stake here, so we hope the President will close Freeport for a while because COVID-19 cases keep increasing there," Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng said on Friday, as quoted by kompas.com.He said he would send a letter to the President regarding his appeal.
Eltinus said that closing down the mine, located in Tembagapura district, was necessary to contain the spread of the disease because the work environment led to unavoidable crowding, even though Freeport Indonesia had enacted a social distancing policy.
"In Freeport, [the employees] sit together; they go into the mess halls together; they take the bus together; they take the trams together," he said.
The company reported on Tuesday that 52 of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom had died.
The Mimika regency had recorded 97 COVID-19 cases and three deaths as of Thursday – the highest in Papua – with 56 of the cases coming from the Tembagapura district alone. Papua as a whole had recorded 277 confirmed cases as of Saturday, according to the government count.
Papua COVID-19 Task Force spokesperson Silwanus Sumule told Antara News Agency on Tuesday that Freeport Indonesia had prepared isolation chambers for its employees. The facility consisted of 600 beds.
In 2018, Freeport Indonesia said it employed about 30,000 workers, with tens of thousands more working as contractors in the mines. (mfp)