Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Govt voices concern over KPC miners' strike

JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of Mines and Energy, expressing concern over the prolonged workers strike at coal mining company PT Kaltim Prima Coal in East Kalimantan, called on both parties to settle their dispute amicably.

"We keep calling on both the protesting workers and the company to be flexible, continue dialog, push ahead with efforts to find a win-win solution," the ministry's coal director, Suryartono, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He said the strike had already caused big losses to the company and the government and could worsen the country's investment climate and discourage investors from entering the country.

"We are really concerned about the strike," Suryartono said, adding that the ministry kept urging the local authorities to help settle the dispute.

Suryartono described the strike as a result of "reform euphoria".

Suryartono's remarks followed reports that the KPC workers strike, which started on June 14, escalated last week when at least 150 striking workers took control of vital mining facilities at PT Kaltim Prima Coal's mine in Sangatta regency, East Kalimantan.

KPC spokesman Bambang Susanto said on Saturday the workers took the action after the police expelled their colleagues, who had occupied the company's main mining area.

The police took the initiative to drive out the workers from the mining site, after the Regional Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes (P4D) ruled that the strike was illegal.

However, the evicted workers returned with a large number of friends, forcing the officers to retreat.

The protesting workers are demanding a 15 percent salary increase, among other things.

The strike has forced KPC to stop production, causing Rp 3 billion (US$348,837) in losses each day.

KPC, a joint venture of Anglo Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and Anglo-American oil and gas company BP Amoco, operates a huge coal mine in Sangatta with an annual output of 15 million tons.

Executive director of the Indonesian Mining Association Paul Louis Courtier also supported Suryartono's view that both parties should find an amicable solution to their dispute.

"The association always calls on all mining companies to do their utmost to settle disputes through dialog to prevent trouble in production and export activities," Coutrier told the Post on Sunday.

He called on the government to continue helping both parties settle their dispute.

"Keep in mind that foreign investors always keep a watchful eye any time there is a dispute involving a company," Coutrier said.

Coutrier predicted a decline in mining investment this year due to, among other things, continued problems faced by existing mining companies. (bkm/jsk)