Workers not holding 2 Bre-X geologists : Indonesian police

INDONESIAN police have denied reports that more than 400 workers at the Busang gold mine in East Kalimantan were holding two Bre-X Minerals geologists as hostages.

“These reports are untrue. We received information that workers there were planning to harm them. So we moved the two out to a different location,” Brigadier-General Ahwil Luthan of the Indonesian Interpol told The Straits Times yesterday.

He said that the two geologists, Mr Bobby Ramirez and Mr Manny Puspos, both Filipinos, were now in police custody in the East Kalimantan provincial capital of Samarinda.

“They will be safe there until this matter is resolved,” he said, adding that reports suggesting that two other Indonesian Bre-X staff were being held by workers were untrue.

News reports had earlier said that besides the two Filipinos, the workers had taken as hostages Bre-X’s head of administration and personnel Idris, and surveyor Agus Tripadi. They wanted to strengthen their demands for severance pay.

“The workers are very anxious about their fate,” BG Ahwil said. He said that the two Filipinos will be in Samarinda until the Canadian firm settled the workers compensation.

The Philippine Embassy here said that the two were now being questioned by Indonesian police.

“They are in good health and we have advised them to return to Jakarta as soon as the police have completed their questioning,” The Indonesian Observer yesterday quoted embassy spokesman Narciso Reyes as saying.

East Kalimantan’s district military commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Soekarno, said that a special team comprising police and military officers, representatives of the Attorney-General’s office, and local administration officials, are in Busang to help settle worker compensation.

The total severance payment for the 488 workers could reach more than US$600,000 (S$864,000).

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