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JAKARTA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Major mining firms Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold and state-owned PT Aneka Tambang (Antam) on Monday agreed to study the possibility of building a copper smelter to comply with a new Indonesian law banning the export of mineral ore.
The companies have warned that their operations will suffer unless they are given leeway in the regulations that came into effect in January to give them time to meet the requirements.
The law sparked widespread concern about its impact on the mining industry and its potential to further undermine confidence in Indonesia's economy. Metal ore and concentrate exports ground to a complete halt, government officials said in January, two weeks after the ban on ore shipments and an export tax were put in place.
Freeport Indonesia CEO Rozik Sutjipto told reporters on Monday that the two companies had agreed to look into the feasibility of building a $2.2 billion, 300,000 tonne-capacity smelter to process copper in one of four different areas, including Gresik in east Java where a smelter already exists.
Another possible location is Papua, the remote eastern region where Freeport operates the world's fifth largest copper mine and its top gold mine.
Sutjipto said the study would take three months.
The long-planned ore export ban is aimed at shifting Indonesia away from a reliance on exports of raw materials for economic growth.
Many in the industry have criticised the government for the way it introduced the policy and for making little preparation for the law's enactment even though it was originally agreed by parliament some five years ago.