Freeport execs face probe over collapsed tunnel in Indonesia, mine to restart soon

A government investigation into a tunnel collapse that killed 28 people at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold’s (NYSE:FCX) Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia should be done by July, Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, Susilo Siswo Utomo, told Reuters Monday.

Despite the fatal accident at the world's No. 2 copper mine, which killed 28 people and forced Freeport to halt operations, Radio New Zealand reports the company has guaranteed it has enough stockpiles to supply customers for a "number of days."

The mine has been halted since May 14 at a cost estimated at about $15 million a day in lost production. It typically generates about 220,000 tonnes of concentrated ore a day, with close to 140,000 tonnes coming from open-pit mining and 80,000 tonnes from underground operations.

Freeport has said it is conducting its own probe into the fatal accident using international experts.

“We had no concerns or fears about its safety, so that’s why we need to understand why this happened.” CEO Richard Adkerson was quoted by The New York Times as saying.

Analyst believe the collapse, one of the country's worst mining disasters, could further strain relations between Freeport — the largest taxpayer to the Indonesian government— and nationalist politicians who have called on it to pay higher royalties.

The miner has also had a series of labour disputes in recent years, including a three-month strike in late 2011 and smaller problems since.

Grasberg’s suspension comes after a landslide last month at Rio Tinto Group’s Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah forced operations to halt.

Image courtesy of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania