Freeport sees ‘no return to business as usual’ at Grasberg mine: document – by Fergus Jensen (Reuters U.S. – March 1, 2017)

JAKARTA – Freeport-McMoRan’s Indonesian unit sees “no returning to business as usual”, an internal company memo said, as the miner cut output and laid off workers at its giant Grasberg copper mine in a battle with Jakarta over mining rights that has paralyzed its operations.

Freeport’s Indonesian unit has shelved plans to invest $1 billion a year in long-term underground expansion at the world’s second-biggest copper mine, the company said in a memo to all staff on Feb. 28, citing a stoppage to Grasberg exports since mid-January resulting from changes to Indonesian mining rules.

Copper ore output from the Grasberg mine in Papua will be cut to 95,000 tonnes a day in 2017 from 140,000 tonnes previously estimated, it said in the document reviewed by Reuters.

“This is not the direction we want to go, as these investments are needed to build our future business and would provide continued economic growth in Papua and thousands of job opportunities for decades, beyond the completion of the Grasberg open pit,” it said.

Copper concentrate production at Grasberg has been stopped since Feb. 11, and ore output is currently limited to stockpiling for future processing. A transition from open pit to underground mining at Grasberg may now be postponed to beyond late 2018.

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