Freeport operating with reduced workforce due to increase of COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 infections in the Mimika Regency, where Freeport operates the Grasberg mine, reached 150 cases as of 17 May, including 102 cases in Tembagapura, the living quarters built to house Freeport workers and their families. This has led Freeport to cut his workforce and operate the mine with only an essential team. The ICP reported on 7 May that despite 85 Freeport employees testing positive for COVID-19, the Grasberg Mine kept operating at full capacity as before.

Freeport has not disclosed how many of the infected people in Tembagapura were workers, but it had converted its on-site barracks into isolation wards for employees who had come into contact with infected persons. The number of workers in isolation has also not been disclosed.

The decision to operate with an essential team and isolate employers aims to ensure they can socially distance effectively and to avoid any further spread of the virus.

A full closure for Grasberg is unlikely as the project needs to continue operating in order to maintain the mine and minimise damage to it and danger to workers. Operations at Grasberg were affected in 2017 after thousands of workers staged a rally over layoffs by Freeport due to a contract dispute with the government. But even then, Freeport continued to have a team of workers to maintain and operate the mine to ensure the safety of its workers.

Freeport has also shut on-site churches and mosques to prevent gatherings of large crowds and deployed a task force to ensure site cleanliness and prevent gatherings.