Timika, Papua  (ANTARA News) - Thousands of traditional gold prospectors in the Kali Kabur river of Timika, Papua, demanded the reopening of gold shops, which had been the buyers of their gold dust in that area.

The people, members of what they called Forum of Community of Gold Prospectors issued their demand in a rally in front of the office of the Mimika legislative body (DPRD) on Friday.

"We asked the government to immediately find a solution and allow gold shops to operate again here," Simon Rahajaan, chairman of the forum said in Mimika, the municipal town on Friday.

Simon said the traditional gold miners have been in difficulty to find buyers for their gold dust after gold shops were forced to stop operation in that area.

Police closed down small gold shops in that area following the arrest of the owner of Toko Emas Rezki Utama, H Basri, at the Makassar airport recently.

H Basri was arrested for taking a lot of gold bars from Timika, Simon said, adding after the incident other shop owners felt not safe in taking gold they bought from the gold prospectors to be resold outside Timika.

The government has to consider the fate of around 15,000 people of Timika make a living from panning for gold in the Kali Kabur river.

The Kali Kabur river has been a disposal place for mining tailing by PT Freeport Indonesia, a U.S. gold and copper mining company operating in Papua.

"We could not continue this life and feed our children and send them to school unless we could sell our gold dust. We have no other jobs other than panning for gold," Rony Leisubun , a depuity chairman of the Forum.

The people said they are ready to cooperate with the district administration and PT Freeport to uncover who were responsible for the damage caused to the mining pipe of Freeport.

"We gold prospectors panning for gold in the Kali Kabur river are not responsible for damaging the Freeport mining pipe as we have no access to the Freeport area,"Anis Werbetu, anothyer leader of the forum.

Mimika DPRD speaker Elminus Mom said the gold prospectors are free to continue their activities at Kali Kabur river.

"No regulation banning them from continuing their activities. Thousands of people make a living from panning for gold in the river," Elminus said

He also asked the old gold shops to resume their business buying the gold dusts from the traditional gold miners. ***2**