| JAKARTA, March 30
JAKARTA, March 30 Freeport McMoRan Inc's
Indonesian unit is close to reaching a deal that will allow the
mining giant to temporarily resume copper concentrate exports
from its Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia's mining minister
said on Thursday.
Indonesia stopped Freeport's concentrate exports in mid
January in an effort to improve revenues from mining resources
and create jobs.
But the stoppage resulted in Freeport shelving billions of
dollars of planned investments and has threatened to unsettle
business sentiment in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
The latest change in tone from Jakarta could signal a near
end to a more than 10-week stoppage of exports from the world's
second-biggest copper mine.
"Freeport Indonesia has entered the final stage of
discussions with the government," Energy and Mineral Resources
Minister Ignasius Jonan told parliament, referring to talks over
mining rights with the world's biggest publicly listed copper
Indonesia wants Freeport to switch from its long-term
operating contract to a new special mining license that includes
new provisions on taxes and mineral processing. Freeport has
said it will only do this when the government provides it with
an alternative with the same fiscal and legal guarantees.
"If they agree on the special mining permit, they can
export, as long as they put forward a proposal to develop a
smelter within five years," Jonan said, adding that Freeport has
agreed to adopt the new permit in principle.
Freeport would be allowed to resume exports for the next six
months while continuing to negotiate fiscal terms for the new
permit, Jonan said, adding that the discussions would be handled
by Indonesia's finance ministry and would focus on its request
for a "nailed down" tax rate and guarantees that other fiscal
terms won't change.
"Hopefully soon we will reach an agreement."
Indonesia also wants Freeport to divest a 51 percent stake
in its Indonesian unit, up from 30 percent previously. To date,
it has divested 9.36 percent, and has said the divestment rules
were "a form of expropriation."
Jonan said on Thursday that a valuation for the stake would
be made "at commercial or market value" but this would not
include the value of Grasberg's mineral resources.
"This must happen," he said.
Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama told Reuters on
Thursday that the company continued to engage in a
"constructive" dialogue with the government.
"We hope in the near future we will reach a solution that is
acceptable to both sides," Pratama said, declining to comment
Freeport warned in February that if the issues were not
resolved by June 17 that it could take the dispute to
arbitration and seek damages, and said there was "no returning
to business as usual" at Grasberg.
(Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Fergus Jensen; editing
by Susan Thomas)