Indonesian police use water cannon to disperse anti-Freeport protesters

Police used a water cannon for a second day Tuesday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting in front of a downtown high-rise housing the offices of U.S. gold mining giant Freeport .

Protesters from the Front for the Struggle of West Papua had rallied outside the "Plaza 89" building in central Jakarta demanding the closure of Freeport's mine in Papua province on the western half of New Guinea island.

It was the second day of protests against the company, which many claim has not brought any benefits to local residents during its 40 years of operations.

In Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, about 200 protesters staged a noisy but peaceful rally outside the local parliament, also demanding the closure of Freeport's Grasberg mine.

In Jakarta, scuffles broke out when police blocked the protesters from approaching the lobby of the high-rise. Freeport's offices are on the building's 5th and 7th floors. Police then sprayed the demonstrators with a water cannon, forcing them to fall back.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. last week had to suspend operations in Papua Indonesia 's most remote province, politically and geographically after 500 locals set up barricades on a road leading to the site. The desperately poor locals were demanding the right to sift through and sell tiny amounts of gold and copper from waste rock dumped by the mine, a practice the New Orleans-based company says is illegal.

Operations resumed Saturday following hours of negotiations involving local ethnic and religious leaders as security authorities.

The Grasberg mine which reportedly contains the largest gold deposit in the world opened in 1973. Freeport estimates the mine, located in the highlands of Papua some 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) east of Jakarta, has decades of future production.

Environmental groups blame the multinational company of causing an ecological disaster by dumping tailings directly into once-pristine rivers that flow into the Arafura Sea , reports the AP.


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