25 Feb 2006

World's largest gold mine stays shut as Papua protests go on

7:15 am on 25 February 2006

Protesters in the Indonesian province of Papua have forced the world's largest gold mine to stay closed for a third consecutive day.

The government has put the Indonesian military in charge of security at Freeport after about 500 Papuan demonstrators blocked an access road to the mine, faced by about 300 police officers.

The stand-off began late on Tuesday after security guards and police officers attempted to evict local miners who look for gold in the waste deposits from the mine, claiming they were acting illegally.

At least six people were injured in a clash, including two security guards.

Police fired rubber bullets and one human rights group claims a local person has now died as a result of injuries.

Indonesia's mines minister said the military would handle security now, but it was unclear how many troops would be assigned to the mission.

Around 50 Papuan students attacked a building, on Thursday, housing Freeport's offices in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The Freeport Papua operation has been a frequent source of controversy in Indonesia on issues ranging from its treatment of the environment to the legality of payments to the Indonesian military who help to guard operations.