Indonesia seeks meeting with Freeport CEO to end copper mine dispute


By Wilda Asmarini and Fergus Jensen

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE, July 11 (Reuters) – Indonesia says it will invite the head of mining giant Freeport McMoRan Inc to Jakarta this month to try to settle a festering dispute over a new deal to operate the world’s second-largest copper mine.

The Arizona-based company resumed copper concentrate exports from the mammoth Grasberg mine in April after a 15-week outage related to the argument over mining rights, but a permanent solution to the row is yet to be found.

Uncertainty over output from the mine buoyed international copper prices earlier in the year, with Indonesia a key supplier of the metal to top consumer China.

Any meeting with Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson would be attended by mineral resources minister Ignasius Jonan and finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, mining ministry secretary general Teguh Pamuji said late on Monday.

A U.S.-based Freeport spokesman declined to confirm whether Adkerson would attend the planned meeting, but said both sides continued “to work toward reaching a mutually positive resolution to support our long-term investment plans”.

Freeport’s share price gained more than 5 percent on Monday to close at $12.52, its biggest single-day percentage climb in 11 weeks.

The conflict comes as Freeport pushes back against parts of new government rules that require miners to adopt a special licence, pay new taxes and royalties, divest a 51-percent stake in their operations and relinquish arbitration rights. The company is one of Indonesia’s biggest taxpayers.

Freeport has maintained its request for a so-called ‘investment stability agreement’ to help replicate the legal and fiscal certainty it had under its existing agreement with the government, said Pamuji.

“Perhaps that will be decided on at the high level meeting at the end of this month,” he said referring to the stability agreement, adding that minerals minister Jonan was “optimistic” negotiations would conclude in July.

Finance minister Indrawati is known for her no-nonsense approach to negotiations and knack for slicing through red tape.

Freeport has also asked for a guarantee on rights to mine Grasberg up to 2041 before committing to billions of dollars of planned underground mine investments and a second Indonesian copper smelter. But Pamuji said the government were only willing to extend the company’s permit by 10 years to begin with, to 2031 from 2021. (Reporting by Wilda Asmarini in Jakarta and Fergus Jensen in Singapore; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta and Susan Taylor in Toronto; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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