July 29, 2015 / 10:52 AM / 5 years ago

Trade official's illness delays Freeport's Indonesia export permit

A view of the Grasberg copper and gold mine operated by an Indonesian subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Inc, situated 4,285 meters above sea level, near Timika, Papua province, February 15, 2015. REUTERS/M Agung Rajasa/Antara Foto

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The implementation of an export deal reached earlier this week by Indonesia and Freeport-McMoRan (FCX.N) has been delayed indefinitely due to the sickness of a senior trade ministry official.

Arizona-based Freeport, which runs one of the biggest copper mines in Papua, reached an agreement with the Indonesian government to export 775,000 tonnes of copper over the next six months on Monday, after proving sufficient progress on the construction of a second domestic smelter.

Freeport and Indonesia were involved in an export spat for much of last year which hurt shipments and was only resolved after the miner agreed to build a domestic smelter, pay higher royalties and divest more of its Indonesian unit.

“The recommendation (from the mine ministry) came yesterday,” Didi Sumedi, director of export industry and mining product at the trade ministry told reporters on Wednesday. “With the current situation, perhaps we’ll need some more time.”

“The dirgen (director general) is currently recovering from a health condition, but I think it won’t be long,” said Sumedi, who was unable to give a timeframe but added that the permit would need the director general’s signature.

Partogi Pangaribuan is the Indonesian trade ministry’s director general for foreign trade, and Sumedi said Pangaribuan is due to retire on Aug. 1 and be replaced soon after.

Freeport Indonesia agreed to deposit the last $20 million instalment for the building of a second copper smelter as part of Monday’s deal.

Freeport Indonesia Chief Executive Maroef Sjamsoeddin told reporters on Wednesday that although export approval was yet to be received from the trade ministry, a shipment of 20,000-30,000 tonnes was ready to be shipped immediately once it came through.

Reporting by Bernadette Christina and Wilda Asmarini; Writing by Michael Taylor; Editing by Michael Perry and Tom Hogue

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