Freeport-McMoRan Inc (NYSE:FCX) is considering a new way of running its operations. According to the chief executive of PT Freeport Indonesia, one of its subsidiaries, Tony Wenas, the company is likely to take on all-underground mining by 2022. The shift will first cover about 75% of the company’s operations by 2021 before reaching 100% by 2022.

Just like many other businesses, the world’s second-biggest copper mine was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The infections were higher in the gold and copper Grasberg mine, which is located on Papua Island. The situation resulted in temporarily close of the mine as there have been cases of death from the virus.

The Return to Normal Production Operations at Freeport Indonesia

Reports indicate that a total of four workers from Grasberg mine succumbed to COVID-19. As a result, the mine reduced its staff a move, which affected the production’s normal output. To help keep the remaining staff safe and secure, PT Freeport Indonesia’s medical providers embraced extensive testing, which has been going on to date.

Nonetheless, Wenas says that normal production levels have resumed with an estimation that the mine would be producing 110,000 tonnes of ore per day for 2020. This translates to 160,000 and 200,000 tonnes of ore daily for 2021 and 2022, respectively, once transition to underground mining has been completed.

Minerals and metals are the backbones of modern technology

No matter where we call home, you will always find minerals and metals either on a large or small scale. The community, including educators, transportation providers, and health workers, relies on various metals for critical operations such as running electronic devices. This is the reason why mines continue to put in large capital investment to develop their mining facilities.

While mining in Papua is a highly profitable business, Freeport has had to deal with profound resistance in its mining activities. The Grasberg mine does not operate far from Puncak Jaya, a base used by the militant Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been claiming independence from Indonesia for decades.

On several occasions, security forces from Freeport have engaged in armed battles with unknown gunmen. In some instances, employees have been caught up in the middle of the gunfire exchange.

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