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Blockade lifted at Indonesia copper mine

[JAKARTA] A two-day blockade preventing access to the giant Grasberg open-pit copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of Freeport-McMoRan Inc has ended after a meeting with workers on safety, the company said in a statement late on Thursday.

The government expects mining activities at the open-pit, which accounts for more than half of the facility's total output, will remain suspended until Tuesday, while it investigates the deaths of four workers at the mine on Saturday.

A spokesperson for the company could not give immediate details on when operations at the mine might resume.

Protesters blocked access to the open-pit mine in Indonesia's Papua province on Wednesday, demanding safety improvements and for management to be held accountable for recent fatal incidents at the mine. "After an open discussion on operational safety with representatives of workers, access in and out of the Grasberg Open Pit Mine reopened at 17:15 Eastern Indonesia Time,"Freeport said in the statement. "Operational activity in the open pit mine can continue,"Freeport said, without giving a timeline on a restart.

Under normal conditions, the Grasberg open pit produces around 140,000 tonnes of copper ore per day and while the underground mine puts out about 80,000 tonnes. "The area where the accident took place is still closed pending an investigation process," the statement said.

Thirty-five people died at the remote Papua complex last year, according to Freeport's 2013 annual report, including 28 who died when a tunnel collapsed.

A representative of the Freeport Workers union contacted on Friday was not immediately able to comment.- Reuters