Indonesia to ease mineral export ban from 2017

The government of Indonesia will relax next year its ban on partially processed minerals exports, including copper, nickel, zinc and bauxite ore order to prop up its economy.

According to the country's mining minister Sudirman Said, the review of the metal exports rule is part of a wider revision of the 2009 mining law that led to the export edicts and other regulations, Reuters reports.

Indonesia imposed the polemic ban on metal ore exports in early 2014, in an attempt to improve returns on resources shipped out of the country by developing smelters that would add value to resources and create jobs.

But the curbs cost billions of dollars in lost revenue to the nation, which is southeast Asia's largest economy and — at the time — a top nickel ore exporter and a major supplier of bauxite.

The ban has also been a bone of contention between the government and companies operating in the country, which include Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) who operates the world’s fourth largest copper mine at Grasberg in the West Papua province, and Denver's Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE:NEM). Together the two U.S. miners account for 97% of Indonesia's copper exports.

The withdrawal of the ban would be a serious setback for these companies, as they were forced — against their will and existing contracts — to comply with the regulation and to develop smelting facilities.