JAKARTA (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoRan and other miners have halted Indonesian shipments of copper concentrates to abide by a government ban on semi-processed metal ore exports that took effect on Thursday, a mining ministry official told Reuters.
The stoppage could prove to be brief though as President Joko Widodo’s administration hammers out new regulations that could ease the ban and allow the resumption of some exports.
Mining Minister Ignasius Jonan is expected to hold a news conference on the new rules later on Thursday.
The temporary halt in Indonesian copper exports was not expected to have an immediate impact on global copper prices due to China’s ample metal stockpiles ahead of the Chinese New Year at the end of the month. It would take export delays of several weeks to bolster prices, traders said.
Indonesia announced in 2014 a ban on ore shipments to push miners to build smelters to process ore locally, although it allowed some concentrate exports to continue amid protests from the industry.
The full ban, which also covers lead, zinc, iron and manganese concentrates, took effect on Thursday, meaning only shipments of fully processed metals were now allowed.
Asked if shipments of copper concentrates from Freeport and Medco Energi unit Amman Mineral Nusatenggara have stopped, Coal and Minerals Director General Bambang Gatot said, “Yes, in accordance with the regulation.”
Freeport and Medco officials were not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
A Freeport spokesman said on Wednesday that the firm was “working cooperatively with government officials to ensure that our operations can continue without interruption.” The company has said its targeted production from its Grasberg mine was 180,000-200,000 tonnes of copper ore per day.
Government officials earlier this week said they would introduce new rules that would allow concentrate shipments to continue beyond Thursday’s deadline in certain cases, but those revisions have yet to be finalised.
Jakarta was also considering allowing the resumption of nickel ore and bauxite shipments, which have been prohibited since January 2014.
Any relaxation of Indonesia’s ban on nickel ore exports could affect nickel smelter investors as well as nickel prices, which have been supported by supply restrictions, including from the Philippines, which took Indonesia’s place as the world’s top nickel ore exporter in 2014.
Mining ministry’s Gatot declined on Thursday to comment on when the new regulations would be released.
Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Sydney; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Tom Hogue and Randy Fabi