China solves Freeport’s $3 billion problem in Indonesia – by John McBeth (Asia Times – November 29, 2020)


JAKARTA – The long drawn-out saga of mining giant Freeport Indonesia’s (PTFI) proposed new copper smelter has taken a new turn with China’s Tsingshan Steel agreeing to build the US$1.8 billion facility at its Weda Bay nickel processing complex in Halmahera, eastern Indonesia.

Maritime Affairs and Investment Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan disclosed in an interview with Asia Times that the deal is expected to be signed before next March. “We are happy with the agreement,” he said, “but the two sides are still in detailed discussions.”

Up to now, the choices have been to either expand Mitsubishi’s existing copper smelter at Gresik, East Java, build a new and much more costly smelter at a nearby industrial estate or shift the whole project to Halmahera as part of an integrated smelting hub.

Panjaitan and other sources familiar with the deal say Tsingshan has agreed to complete the smelter within 18 months, leaving Freeport to build a $250 million extension to the Mitsubishi plant in what could be seen as a token gesture of its commitment to the in-country processing of all of its ore.

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