Indonesian mining giant seeks to triple aluminum production

Aluminum foil. Image from George Estreich on Flickr

PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium has set a long-term goal of tripling its production capacity by expanding operations to the island of Borneo as it seeks to utilize the region’s abundant bauxite reserves.

The state-owned company known as Inalum plans to boost capacity to 750,000 tons by building a 500,000-ton smelter in North Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo, as power supply constraints limit the expansion of its sole facility in Kuala Tanjung, North Sumatra, according to Managing Director Oggy Achmad Kosasih. He didn’t give a timeline.

The existing smelter relies on electricity from a hydro plant that can only provide enough power for 250,000 tons of aluminum a year, Kosasih said in an interview on Monday in Kuala Tanjung. The company is trying to increase output to 300,000 tons by upgrading its furnace, he said.

President Joko Widodo’s goal is to shift the country from an exporter of minerals into a major producer of processed metals

The expansion by Inalum, which has various holdings in the country’s top miners, including a 51% stake in PT Freeport Indonesia — the company that runs the giant Grasberg copper and gold mine — is in keeping with President Joko Widodo’s goal of shifting the country from an exporter of minerals into a major producer of processed metals. The move will also help cut raw material costs as Kalimantan is Indonesia’s top bauxite producing region.

“Increasing production capacity won’t mean anything if we don’t cut costs from the production side and the source of raw materials,” Kosasih said.

The company and its unit PT Aneka Tambang, or Antam, are also building a 1-million ton refinery in Kalimantan to process bauxite into alumina in order to reduce imports. The refinery, which aims to start production in early 2022, will eventually be able to produce 2 million tons of the feedstock for aluminum, he said.

Inalum, which also owns majority stakes in coal miner PT Bukit Asam and tin miner PT Timah, said in July it had earmarked as much as $10 billion over the next five years to develop refineries and smelters.

(By Eko Listiyorini, with assistance from Yoga Rusmana)

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