Antam gets initial clearance for Indonesia nickel ore exports -Official

JAKARTA, March 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s state-owned miner Aneka Tambang (Antam) has been granted an initial approval to export up to 2.7 million tonnes of nickel ore over the next 12 months, a mining ministry official said on Wednesday.

Indonesia was the world’s top nickel ore exporter before it imposed a ban on unprocessed nickel ore exports in 2014 in a bid to encourage miners and customers to invest in a domestic processing industry.

This year, however, the country relaxed the ban to allow companies that had built or were planning to build smelters to export low-grade nickel ore under certain conditions.

Indonesia’s ore export ban has supported nickel prices and a resumption of its shipments could hurt prices of the metal.

“In terms of administration it’s OK. Now all that’s left is for it to be signed by the director general,” Mineral Enterprise Director Bambang Susigit said.

Earlier, Susigit told domestic media that the amount was less than the 6 million tonnes of nickel ore exports that Antam had requested, in accordance with the company’s existing capacity to process low-grade nickel ore at its smelters. He also said that feasibility studies for the company’s smelter developments needed to be independently verified.

A spokesman for Antam said the company was still waiting for the recommendation to be officially issued by the mining ministry, and declined to comment further.

Antam said in February it had stockpiles of an estimated 5 million wet metric tonnes of low-grade nickel ore that was ready to ship.

Antam shares gained around 3.5 percent on Wednesday, while the broader Jakarta Composite Index that closed up 0.93 percent.

Benchmark three-month nickel futures on the London Metals Exchange were down around 0.25 percent to $9,970 per tonne at 10.35 GMT. (Reporting by Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Mark Potter)