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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 07:25 GMT
Papua mine stopped by protests
By Rachel Harvey
BBC, Jakarta

Indonesian elite police officers of Mobile Brigade (BRIMOB) stand guard at the ambush site (September 2002)
Freeport has been hit with bad publicity before
Production at a lucrative gold mine in the Indonesian province of Papua has been suspended because of a demonstration by local illegal miners.

Protesters, some armed with bows and arrows, have blocked a road leading to the mine complex, being protected by some 400 police and soldiers.

Clashes between the two sides on Tuesday left two security guards injured.

The US-owned facility is one of the world's largest gold and copper mines.

But in recent years it has been mired in controversy.

Local police contacted by the BBC say around 300 men, women and children have set up barricades across the road leading to the mine complex.

Armed with bows, arrows and home-made spears, the protesters are demanding the right to continue their illegal mining in the area and say they will not leave until they have met the mine's boss.

Earlier this month, police and officials from the mine, which is operated by a subsidiary of the American-based firm Freeport McMoran, conducted a number of raids to remove illegal prospectors from the site.

Hundreds of families in the area are believed to earn a living by searching for small deposits of gold in waste rock left behind by the mine.

The police say negotiations with the protesters are continuing and the atmosphere is reported to be calm.

Freeport's operations in Papua have come under considerable scrutiny after reports that the company paid substantial sums of money to military and police officials to help secure its mine.

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