Indonesia to ask Freeport to build copper smelter

Stock image.

The Indonesian government will ask PT Freeport Indonesia to build a copper smelter in Weda Bay, a newly built metal industrial park in Halmahera, the senior minister overseeing mining said on Friday.

“We have proposed to the president, and the president has agreed, to request Freeport to build a smelter in Weda Bay,” Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs, told a virtual seminar.

The industrial park was given a national strategic project status this year and started nickel smelting operations in April

He said the government aims to build an integrated smelting hub in Weda Bay and wants to add a copper facility to the nickel hub in the North Maluku province.

The industrial park, controlled by China’s stainless steel giant Tsingshan Holding Group and France’s Eramet, was given a national strategic project status this year and started nickel smelting operations in April.

PT Freeport Indonesia, a local unit of FreeportMcMoRan, which is now 51% controlled by the government, is building a $3 billion smelter in East Java.

Construction of a smelter is part of Freeport-McMoran’s deal with the Indonesian government to maintain its mining rights at the Grasberg mine until 2041.

Ground preparation was under way in East Java, Freeport Indonesia’s chief executive said in February, but the company is requesting a delay to the construction timetable due to coronavirus-related disruptions.

A mining ministry official said it has not received any changes to Freeport’s smelter project yet. Freeport Indonesia had no immediate comment.

(By Maikel Jefriando, Wilda Asmarini and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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