* Injunction to reopen mine could take months to obtain
* Newmont prefers to resolve Indonesia dispute through talks
* CEO says open to reviving merger talks with Barrick (Adds CEO comments on Indonesia, Barrick, Australia operations)
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Newmont Mining Corp said on Thursday it is applying for an injunction to get workers back to its Batu Hijau mine as it fights a controversial tax on copper exports that led the company to halt shipments from Indonesia this year.
The top U.S. gold miner stopped exporting copper concentrate from the mine on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa in January after the government introduced an escalating tax on metal concentrates in a push to force miners to build smelters in the Southeast Asian country.
Newmont has taken a hard line against the tax by filing for international arbitration against the state, arguing that the export tax violates the company’s investment agreement with the country.
Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg told an industry function in Melbourne that the company would seek interim injunctive relief from the arbitration panel to reopen the mine and resume exports, ahead of the outcome of the arbitration.
“We estimate it could take several months to obtain a ruling on interim relief and at least several weeks to ramp back up to full production if that relief is granted,” Goldberg said in a speech.
Newmont halted copper mining at Batu Hijau on June 5, saying its concentrate storage facilities were full.
Despite the dispute, Newmont still considered Indonesia a “great place” to be working in the long term, Goldberg said.
He stressed Newmont would continue to try to resolve the dispute through talks with the government while also pursuing the arbitration, but said he had no plans to visit Indonesia while he was in the Asia-Pacific region over the next week.
“Arbitration isn’t necessarily the way I’d like to resolve this. I’d rather resolve it through negotiation with either the current government or the incoming government, if it goes that long,” Goldberg told reporters after his speech.
Fellow miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, last month sealed a deal by agreeing to a much reduced export duty of 7.5 percent, and is set to resume copper concentrate exports.
While Newmont has said it was continuing talks with the government, an Indonesian official has previously denied any talks have taken place.
“I get their public position is important and I appreciate that, but we continue to look for ways that we can achieve a successful outcome for both of us there,” Goldberg said.
He said he had no plans yet to talk to Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo as he was just putting together his government.
“But if they think that would be helpful, I‘m always available,” Goldberg said.
Newmont was open to reviving talks on a possible merger with Barrick Gold Corp, the world’s largest gold miner, Goldberg said, but said there have been no discussions since talks fell apart in April.
“Clearly we overlap and we work together. KCGM (in Australia) is an example. We’ve got a joint venture in Nevada. And I wouldn’t close the door on it at all,” Goldberg told reporters.
Newmont had no plans to sell its remaining operations in Australia, after selling its Jundee mine earlier this year for $91 million, as its other mines, including Tanami in the Northern Territory, are performing well, he said.
Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin