(Recasts, adds context)
By Wilda Asmarini
JAKARTA, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s mining ministry recommended on Friday that Freeport-McMoran Inc’s Indonesian unit be granted a permit to export 1.1 million tonnes of copper concentrates until Feb. 16, 2018, the ministry said in a statement.
The announcement comes after a more than month-long export stoppage that brought production at Freeport’s giant Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, to a standstill last week that helped push copper prices to near 21-month highs.
The ministry also recommended that fellow copper miner Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara be permitted to export 675,000 tonnes of copper concentrate, also up to Feb 16, 2018.
The recommendations were issued to the miners based on commitments made by the pair to develop smelters in Indonesia, the statement said, noting that progress on their smelter projects would be evaluated independently at least every six months.
“Where six-month development progress is not in accordance with commitments, the export recommendation will be revoked.”
A spokesman for Freeport Indonesia could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Indonesia introduced rules on Jan. 12 requiring Freeport and some other miners to shift from their current ‘contracts of work’ to so-called ‘special mining permits’, before being allowed to resume exports of semi-processed ores and concentrates.
The new rules also mandate the development of smelting facilities, as part of a broader push by Indonesia to boost returns from its natural resources.
Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport said earlier it would only agree to a new mining permit with the same fiscal and legal protection in its current contract.
Last month, Freeport, the world’s biggest publicly-listed copper miner, estimated that Grasberg would contribute around one-third of its global sales of 4.1 billion tonnes copper in 2017, assuming operations were normal.
At least 1,000 of Freeport’s approximately 33,000 workers staged a demonstration on Friday morning in Timika, Papua, the province where the mine is located, to demand that the government make “a wise decision” regarding Freeport, a union leader told Reuters.
Benchmark London Metal Exchange copper was down 0.7 percent at $5,955 a tonne on Friday. It touched a near-21-month high of $6,204 on Monday. (Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Fergus Jensen and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Jason Neely and Susan Thomas)