By Julie Gordon
June 12 Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc
on Wednesday declared force majeure to free itself from
obligations to deliver copper concentrate from its Grasberg mine
in Indonesia, where work has been suspended after a May accident
that killed 28 people.
"Because of the temporary disruption, (Freeport Indonesia)
has notified its customers of a Force Majeure event under its
concentrate sales agreements," the company said in a statement.
The announcement, widely expected by metals traders, sent
Freeport shares up 2.9 percent to $29.86 on Wednesday morning.
Benchmark three-month copper was up nearly 1 percent, on
signs of tightening supply, including the Grasberg shutdown.
Freeport said the suspension has so far impacted some 36,000
tonnes of copper output at Grasberg, or 7 percent of the some
500,000 tonnes of copper sales the company had expected from
Grasberg in 2013.
Gold output has also been curbed by about 80,000 ounces, or
6 percent of the planned 1.25 million ounces for the year.
Operations were halted at the Grasberg complex on May 15,
the day after a training tunnel collapsed, killing 28 people in
one of Indonesia's worst mining disasters.
Freeport briefly resumed open-pit mining on May 28, but
after another worker was killed in a separate accident, the
Indonesian government asked the company to suspend operations
until an investigation was completed.
The Arizona-based miner said the Indonesia Department of
Energy and Mineral Resources had completed a preliminary review
and issued recommendations, which the company is addressing.
"This was an unprecedented event in our more than 40-year
history of operations in Papua," Chairman James Moffett and
Chief Executive Richard Adkerson said in a joint statement. "We
are taking all actions required to prevent future incidents and
to assure the safety of our workforce."
It was not clear when Grasberg, the world's second largest
copper mine, will be restarted. Freeport said it is working with
authorities to resume operations in phases and will update its
production outlook as additional information becomes available.
But a restart of operations may not be imminent, with the
full review still ongoing and more recommendations expected.
Government officials said on Tuesday that they did not know
when the investigation would wrap up and they would seek input
from industry experts once it is completed. A government
official had no further comment on Wednesday.
The declaration from Freeport is the second major force
majeure to hit the copper market this year, coming just two
months after a massive slide crippled production at Rio Tinto
Plc's Bingham Canyon mine in Utah.
The outages have pushed spot treatment and refining charges
(TC/RCs) down to around $75 per tonne/7.5 cents per lb, with
offers as low as $65/6.5 cents, as supply tightened. That
compares with $85/8.5 cents before the accidents. Miners or
traders to smelters pay the charges to convert concentrate into
Metal analysts said a prolonged stoppage at Grasberg could
help keep copper supplies tight this year, despite the addition
of new tonnes into the market from Rio's Oyu Tolgoi mine in
"From the reports we were getting from Grasberg's customers
we knew this was coming, but this will perhaps surprise a few
people in terms of the speed at which it has occurred," said Nic
Brown, an analyst at Natixis in London. "The market appears to
be tightening significantly, and we believe that the copper
market will remain in deficit this year."
Benchmark copper was up 0.8 percent at $7120.25 per tonne on
The Grasberg complex, which also has the world's largest
gold reserves, normally produces around 220,000 tonnes of
concentrated ore a day, with about 140,000 tonnes from open-pit
mining and 80,000 tonnes from underground operations.
Freeport, the world's largest publicly-listed copper miner,
operates mines around the world and recently expanded in energy
with the takeover of two U.S.-focused oil & gas companies.