JAKARTA Indonesia's vice minister for energy and minerals, a key policy maker in the government's drive to tighten mining regulations and reform the energy sector, died on Saturday while mountain walking, said a senior government official.
Widjajono Partowidagdo was a central player in a government decision expected soon on whether to impose a 25 percent tax on mining exports this year and a 50 percent tax in 2013. He also played an important role in fuel subsidy policy.
"This tragic news would be a shock for the energy ministry amid the recent fuel price hike decision as he held a key position in formulating and communicating the government's policy to the public," said Kurtubi, an oil and gas expert.
"It may cause a delay in other energy and mining policies," Kurtubi told Reuters.
Partowidagdo, 60, collapsed after having walked to the summit of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa island in eastern Indonesia and died before he could be brought to hospital, a senior government official said.
"It's confirmed that the vice minister has passed away," Thamrin Sihite, a director general in the ministry told Reuters. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was yet to name a replacement, a spokesman for the president said.
A series of mining and minerals regulations announced this year have rattled investors in the country, which is the world's top exporter of thermal coal and refined tin and has a big minerals sector.
The regulations include a plan under which some foreign mining companies must divest 51 percent within 10 years and a proposed ban on the export of some unprocessed metals by 2014.
Parliament on March 31 rejected a government plan to raise fuel prices by one-third this month, but legislators did give the president the power to raise prices - cutting expensive state subsidies - under certain conditions.
Partowidagdo was a keen amateur climber who during a recent interview proudly described his climbs and walks up Indonesia's tallest peaks.
"He was a person with high integrity. In the energy ministry, people called us the dynamic duo. I took care of macro economic and politics while he took care of the details of the energy industry," Energy and Minerals Minister Jero Wacik told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Karima Anjani; Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)