I wrote in late December about a looming crisis in Indonesia’s mining sector.
And yesterday, it hit.
Officials at Indonesia’s mining ministry confirmed that miners including Freeport-McMoRan have now halted copper concentrate exports. In accordance with rules that mandated a complete stop to concentrate shipments as of January 12.
That comes even as Indonesian officials said earlier this week they are writing new rules to allow continued concentrate shipments. With Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan saying he aimed to keep miners exporting beyond the January 12 deadline.
It appears however, that lawmakers were unable to get new rules finalized. And the clock ran out on Indonesia’s miners for the moment — with the concentrate export ban reportedly also now affecting lead, zinc and iron ore producers across the country.
Reports suggest Minister Jonan is still working to draft a 12th-hour solution. With a press conference planned very soon to announce the new direction for mining policy in this key producing nation.
And those new rules will reportedly have critical implications for Indonesia’s mining sector going forward. Quite likely affecting metals supply and prices around the globe.
For one thing, Indonesian officials said the new rules may allow resumed exports of nickel and bauxite concentrates. With nickel being an especially big deal, given that Indonesia was formerly the world’s largest exporter of this metal. But lost that spot after the export ban kicked in during 2014. Related: How Tillerson Could Jeopardize Geopolitics In Iraq
A resumption of nickel exports here could thus substantially increase global supply. And put a damper on worldwide prices.
Mining Minister Jonan also said that new rules will require foreign miners in Indonesia to divest 51 percent ownership to locals. Adding that this rule would be applied “wherever possible” — suggesting that more operations could come under pressure to sell off stakes to Indonesian investors.
Such a move would further cloud Indonesia’s investment climate for mining. Watch for an announcement from the government the next few days on final policy decisions regarding exports and ownership.
Here’s to a barter in Jakarta.
By Dave Forest
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