As the call for dawn prayers echoes through Tembagapura, in Papua Province, the town carved out of the mountain jungle in one of the most remote regions on earth, the town comes to life. This commercial mining area of more than 11,000 people was established to support Grasberg, the world’s largest gold mine and the second-largest copper mine, which is run by Freeport Indonesia.
The majority of people who live in Tembagapura, part of Mimika District, in Papua’s highlands, are Christian, but Muslims live peacefully beside them. Most of the workers here are either miners or support staff at Grasberg’s open-pit or underground mine. The number of employees at the “Coppertown” site is nearly twice the population of the town itself. Today, Freeport and the Indonesian state-run company Inalum are transitioning the site from open-pit to underground mining.
It’s easy to memorize the location of the Freeport facility by the mile markers. I should know because I work there as chief engineer for contract operations management. I use my love of photography to capture daily life in and around Tembagapura. This ranges from local residents going about their business, to miners going to and from work, to the relaxing colors of the sky at sunset after another long day of operations.