Freeport Indonesia ramps up coronavirus testing as cases near mine rise

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - PT Freeport Indonesia, operator of the world's second-biggest copper mine, is to conduct "extensive testing" among its employees after coronavirus cases in the area where the mine operates topped 100.

It said on Wednesday it had around 50,000 rapid and polymerase chain reaction test kits on site.

COVID-19 infections in Mimika Regency, where Freeport's gold and copper Grasberg mine is located on Papua island, reached 112 cases as of Sunday.

"To help keep its over 25,000 employee and contractor workforce safe, PT Freeport Indonesia's medical providers are doing extensive testing," the company said in the statement.

Parent company Freeport McMoRan Inc said last month said that it would cut its 2020 costs by 18%, or $13 billion, as prices of copper plunged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase in cases has also prompted the head of the municipality to urge the president to have Freeport temporarily close the mine, local newspaper Kompas reported.

Operations at the mine however, has not been disrupted, Riza Pratama, a spokesman for Freeport Indonesia told Reuters.

"(Production) is on target and our operations are as per normal, but we continue to monitor the situation, our employees and the community at our site,", Pratama said, adding that the company has "several" unconfirmed patients in isolation.

Indonesia reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections earlier on Wednesday, with 689 new cases, taking the total number to 15,438. Some 1,028 people have died from the virus.

(Reporting by Wilda Asmarini and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Alison Williams)