Freeport Indonesia, operator of Grasberg, the world's second-biggest copper mine, is on track shift to all-underground mining by 2022, its chief executive said on Sunday.
"By 2021, approximately 75% of our operations will be underground mining, with it reaching 100% by 2022," said Tony Wenas, chief executive of PT Freeport Indonesia, a unit of Freeport-McMoran Inc.
Wenas said Freeport had returned to its normal production levels and would be producing 110,000 tonnes of ore per day for 2020. This will rise to 160,000 daily tonnes of ore for 2021 and 200,000 tonnes for 2022, as the firm completes its transition to underground mining, he said.
Freeport last month had to cut its workforce at the Grasberg mine after four workers died of COVID-19 amid rising infections of the new coronavirus in the area, including at the crew's living quarters.
Wenas said Freeport had developed testing facilities for the virus and had seen a 60% recovery for infected workers.
[Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Fanny Potkin; Editing by William Mallard.]