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3 Freeport-McMoRan employees detained in Congo

Three Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. employees have been detained for questioning in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of public funds, the company said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. employees have been detained for questioning in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of public funds, the company said Monday.

The Kinshasa prosecutor's inquiry revolves around whether the monies were misappropriated related to work permits and visas for a Congo mining project, company spokesman Bill Collier said.

The government has not given mining project officials evidence of wrongdoing by employees, Collier said.

Freeport-McMoRan is cooperating with the inquiry and conducting an internal investigation. "We will take appropriate action if it is determined that any of our personnel have acted improperly," Collier said in an e-mailed statement.

He declined to identify the employees or their nationalities.

The Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mining project is in the Katanga province. Copper mining is expected to increase to full production later this year.

Freeport-McMoRan owns a 58-percent stake in the operation. Other partners include Lundin Mining Corp. and the Congolese government through Gecamines.

The employees' detention was the second weekend development involving the Phoenix-based company's global operations.

In Indonesia, five Freeport-McMoRan employees received minor injuries when gunmen opened fire Sunday on a bus carrying workers to the Grasberg mine in the Papua province, Collier said.

A series of ambushes near the Grasberg mine since July 8 have left three dead. Police have arrested nine suspects, including two Freeport employees, who face charges of premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession.

Shares of Freeport-McMoRan fell $4.11, or 6.5 percent, to $59.54 in early trading, mirroring an overall drop in the stock market on investor worries about consumer spending.