Freeport closer to resuming copper exports from Indonesia

JAKARTA, March 27 Thu Mar 27, 2014 7:01am EDT

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JAKARTA, March 27 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc has received export certification in Indonesia, a government official said on Thursday, taking it a step closer to resuming shipments from the world's fifth-largest copper mine.

The company has not exported copper concentrate since January from the mine in remote Papua and it must still reach a deal on an escalating export tax, which it and a fellow U.S. miner Newmont Mining Corp have refused to pay, before restarting shipments.

Any prolonged stoppage in exports by Freeport would support global prices of the base metal, which have lost almost 11 percent this year and are currently recovering from a 3-1/2 year low of $6,321 a tonne hit earlier this month.

"Freeport has received certification as a registered exporter from the trade ministry," Thamrin Latuconsina, trade ministry export director for mining and industrial products, told Reuters.

But the firm has not been given a green light to export copper concentrate yet and it still needs a recommendation letter from the mining ministry to do so, Latuconsina said.

Latuconsina said he expects Freeport to apply for this permit soon, adding that for this it would have to comply with Indonesian rules including paying the export tax.

Freeport has reduced copper production at the mine in Papua, and its nearby mill was operating at half its normal capacity, following the dispute with the government on the new tax.

The tax was introduced on Jan. 12 as part of package of new mining rules aimed at forcing miners to build smelters and process raw materials in Indonesia. (Reporting by Yayat Supriatna,; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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