Ten miners have been rescued and four died after a tunnel collapsed in a mine in Indonesia's Papua province. Photo: EPA

Four dead, 23 still trapped after Indonesia mine collapse


The death toll from an accident at a US-owned mine in remote eastern Indonesia rose to four on Wednesday, as rescuers struggled to reach 23 workers still trapped underground in a collapsed tunnel.

Ten people have been rescued alive following the accident early on Tuesday at Freeport-McMoRan’s Grasberg, one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines that is high in the mountains of rugged Papua province.

It was the latest problem for the mine, which was hit by a major strike in 2011 that crippled production.

“The rescue team has found 14 people – four were dead and 10 have been rescued alive,” said local police chief Sudirman, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

He said all 14 were Indonesians and that he did not know the condition of those rescued.

Some 40 employees and contractors were in a classroom in the tunnel, part of a training facility and not one of the mining areas, when it caved in, according to Freeport’s Indonesian subsidiary.

Three people managed to escape immediately, leaving 37 initially trapped underground.

Police and the firm have said the rescue operation will be difficult and could take some time due to the remote location and inhospitable terrain.

Freeport has said it does not expect the accident to affect production.

It did not disclose the nationalities of all 37 workers involved in the accident, but the vast majority of the more than 24,000 employees at Grasberg are Indonesian.

The 2011 strike by thousands of workers lasted three months and badly hit production. It was only ended when the firm agreed to a huge pay hike.

The industrial action sparked a wave of deadly clashes between police and gunmen around the mine, with at least 11 people, all Indonesians, killed.

Earlier this month, some 1,100 workers employed by Freeport contractors staged a three-day strike over pay but it caused only minimal disruption to production.