Indonesia limits foreign ownership of mines – by Reza Thaher and Neil Chatterjee (Globe and Mail – March 7, 2012)

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JAKARTA— Reuters –Indonesia will take more of the profits from its vast mineral resources by limiting foreign ownership of mines in a move likely to scare off new investment in the world’s top exporter of thermal coal and tin.
Under new rules announced on the mining ministry’s website, Southeast Asia’s largest economy will require foreign companies to sell down stakes in mines and increase domestic ownership to at least 51 per cent by the 10th year of production.

The move is part of a global trend of increased resource nationalization that is pushing up the costs of mining for international companies and giving governments in emerging market countries more cash and clout.
Indonesia may have a fresh stamp of approval from ratings agencies as an investment grade nation, but the unexpected regulation underlines continuing policy uncertainties that have long been a major risk for investors hoping to tap some of the world’s richest deposits of coal, gold and copper.
The regulation, signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Feb. 21, comes as the government is renegotiating existing royalty contracts with major foreign investors such as Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX-N39.710.721.85%) and Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM-N56.62-0.06-0.11%)
It was not clear how soon the regulation will apply to existing investors.

“The aim is the state has to get more. For new investment it will be simple, but for existing investment there must be renegotiation,” Mining Minister Jero Wacik said.
Freeport, which is currently renegotiating the contract for its vast Grasberg gold and copper mine, said it was confident the Indonesian government will honour all existing contracts.
In a statement to Reuters in Jakarta, the company stressed there was a “mutual commitment as part of Freeport Indonesia efforts for future investment.”
Spokesman Eric Kinneberg separately told Reuters in New York that Freeport’s contract does not require the company to divest any portion of its ownership in its local units PT Freeport Indonesia or PT Indocopper Investama.
A spokesman for Denver-based Newmont said the company, the world’s second-largest gold producer, believed the proposals would have no impact since it already divested and now owns a minority stake in the Indonesian unit that operates its Batu Hijau mine. A nearby development project, Elang, is covered by the same contract.
“The divestiture requirements outlined in the new law appear to be very similar to the terms of our existing contract of work,” Omar Jabara said in an e-mail in New York.
He said 44 per cent of the shares in PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara are already owned by Indonesian entities and the remaining 7 per cent was already offered for sale and is awaiting final purchase from the Indonesian government.
Newmont stock fell 33 cents to $56.85 (U.S.) in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Freeport was down 24 cents at $39.20.
After steep rises in commodity prices over the last decade, Indonesian politicians have become increasingly vocal in demanding better deals with mining companies, many of which were struck in the era of former autocratic leader Suharto.
The fast-growing mining sector accounts for over a tenth of GDP in the G20 economy.

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