Grasberg mine

The confirmed death toll from an underground tunnel collapse in Indonesia has risen to 21, in what is believed to be one of worst mining disasters in the country.

The incident occurred on 14 May when a tunnel collapsed in a training room at Gold’s Big Gossan underground mine, more than a kilometer away from Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan‘s Grasberg mine, the largest gold mine and the third-largest open pit copper mine worldwide.

PT Freeport Indonesia, the operator of the mine, said 38 workers were in a small training room at the mine when the roof caved in. Ten people were safely evacuated by the following day but seven people are still unaccounted for.

Last week, the government said it will carry out a full investigation into the cause of the accident once recovery operations are complete.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry coal and minerals director general Thamrin Sihite said that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued orders to related ministries to review all mining operations in the country in a move to prevent further fatal mining accidents, reports Bloomberg.

The Big Gossan mine is one of three mines in the Grasberg minerals district, where production began in 2010.

The other mines include Grasberg, which lies 4,000m above sea level, and the Deep Ore Zone underground mine.

Freeport has faced a number of challenges in recent years – more than 20,000 employees downed tools over wages for three weeks in early 2012 and three months in 2011.

Image: Grasberg mine is the third-largest open pit copper mine in the world. Photo: Alfindra Primaldhi.

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