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Indonesia mine tunnel death toll rises to 28

World News : Rescuers have recovered seven more bodies from a collapsed mine tunnel in eastern Indonesia, its US operator said Wednesday, taking the accident’s final toll to 28.

The rescue team “recovered and identified the last of the remains of the buried workers early this morning”, the Indonesian subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan said in a statement.

Thirty-eight workers were initially trapped on May 14 when part of the tunnel caved in at Freeport’s Grasberg, one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines high in the mountains of remote Papua province.

Ten people were recovered alive soon afterwards but rescue efforts were hampered by the narrow tunnel and the unstable conditions, with rocks continuing to fall from the roof.

Freeport declared Wednesday a day of mourning, and said that memorial services would be held in its Jakarta office and in Papua.

“This is a heart-wrenching thing for Freeport,” said the company’s president and chief executive Richard Adkerson, who flew from an industry event in Spain at the weekend to Papua to meet families of the deceased.

“We will not rest until we are assured that we understand the reasons for this tragic event.”

He said that an outside investigation team made up of Indonesian and international experts was being assembled to investigate the accident. Freeport has as yet given no indication why the tunnel caved in.

Operations have been halted at the mine for a week partly to help with rescue efforts and also as a mark of respect for those affected by the accident.

The head of Freeport’s local subsidiary, Rozik Soetjipto, said Wednesday it was not clear when they would resume. Freeport has stockpiles of gold and copper at the mine that it is using to meet existing orders.

Soetjipto said that safety was being reviewed at all of Freeport’s operations in Indonesia.

Energy Minister Jero Wacik added the government will carry out its own probe into the Grasberg accident and that mines across the country will undergo safety checks.

Workers at the site who have been protesting at the mine for the past week demanding safer conditions were still blocking a road on Wednesday with trucks and heavy machinery.

The tunnel was part of an underground training facility, not one of the mining areas.

Those trapped inside at the time were attending a safety training course.(AFP)

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