23 Feb 2006

World's largest gold mine shuts owing to blockades in Papua

8:12 am on 23 February 2006

The world's largest gold mine - in the Indonesian province of Papua - has closed down because of a demonstration by locals accused of breaking in to steal minerals.

Up to 400 men, women and children yesterday set up wood and stone barricades across an access road to the Freeport mine, which has now suspended operations.

On Tuesday, two security guards were hit by arrows in a clash with about a hundred people said to have been scouring the mine site for small lumps of gold.

The last time the mine closed down was in 2003 after a landslide killed several workers.

Freeport says it has no choice but to pay the Indonesian military to protect its operations in Papua, although the law forbids transfers to individual officers.