Jan 8 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s mining ministry sought to ease a controversial mineral export ban before its Sunday deadline, but still looked set to prohibit more than $2 billion worth of annual nickel ore and bauxite shipments.
Indonesian government officials are scrambling to pass regulations to ease a ban on unprocessed mineral ore exports from Jan. 12.
The ban aims to boost Indonesia’s long-term return from its mineral wealth, but officials fear a short-term cut in foreign revenue could widen the current account deficit, which has undermined investor confidence and battered the rupiah.
“The (mining) ministry proposed that miners will be given flexibility to export concentrate or processed minerals until 2017,” Sukhyar, director general of coal and minerals at the ministry, told reporters.
“After 2017, they will only be allowed to export metal or refined mineral,” he said. The mineral ban is one of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s biggest economic policy moves in his nearly 10 years in office.
Under the proposed regulations, miners such as U.S. giants Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Newmont Mining Corp would still be allowed to export copper, manganese, lead, zinc, and iron ore concentrate until 2017.
Freeport and Newmont, however, would not be allowed to ship copper concentrate after 2017. The two companies account for 97 percent of the country’s copper production and currently refine only about a third of their copper output in Indonesia.
“The point here is … around three years from now, they must purify,” Sukhyar said.
The ministry decided to keep the ban on nickel ore and bauxite because of ample domestic smelters, he added. Indonesia is the world’s top exporter of nickel ore.
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