Indonesia minister to meet copper execs, hopes for quick deal

JAKARTA, June 13 Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:13am EDT

JAKARTA, June 13 (Reuters) - Indonesia's chief economics minister said he planned to meet executives of major foreign copper miners on Friday, and hoped to reach a quick deal over a controversial tax that has halted concentrate exports for five months.

Richard Adkerson, the CEO of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc and Newmont Mining Corp CEO Gary Goldberg are in the capital Jakarta, signalling a fresh effort to reach a settlement over the export tax that the miners say they should not have to pay.

The tax is part of a government drive to force miners to build smelters and processing plants in Southeast Asia's largest economy, but a lack of progress in resolving the dispute has led Newmont to declare force majeure and Freeport to slash output.

"We hope this happens quickly, everyone wants it to happen quickly," said chief economics minister and billionaire businessman Chairul Tanjung, who is spearheading a new government push aimed at brokering a deal.

"As quickly as possible but we mustn't rush," he said when asked for a timeframe. "If we can finish it quickly, we will finish it."

Both Freeport and fellow U.S.-based copper and gold miner Newmont have argued they should be exempt from the tax, which kicks in at 25 percent and rises to 60 percent in the second half of 2016, before a total concentrate export ban in 2017. They say their current contracts prohibit any extra taxes.

The two miners account for 97 percent of Indonesia's copper output.

Freeport could not be reached for comment on Friday, while Newmont was unable to give immediate comment.

In addition to the export tax and domestic processing requirements, the talks also include contract renegotiations.

(Reporting by Jakarta bureau; writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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