Indonesian official refuses to be drawn on whether ore export ban might be brought forward

(This August 5 story corrects headline, first paragraph to mineral ore, not iron ore)

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A top Indonesian mining ministry official said on Monday he did not want to speculate on whether the government might bring forward a planned ban on mineral ore exports from 2022.

The ban is aimed at making miners process minerals in Indonesia, a major exporter of nickel ore. There was talk in the metals market on Monday that the ban might be brought forward, sending nickel prices to a four-year high on the Shanghai Futures Exchange and to a two-week high at $14,930 a ton on the London Metal Exchange.

“I don’t want to speculate in that regard,” Bambang Gatot Ariyono, director general of mineral and coal at the mining ministry, said when asked if there were plans to change the legislation to ban exports.

Under a 2017 mining regulation, Indonesia is due to stop allowing the export of unprocessed ore starting Jan. 12, 2022, after giving miners a five-year period to build smelters onshore.

“As long as there is no new regulation, the current one remains in effect,” Ariyono said.

Last month Ariyono said that Indonesian authorities would enforce a ban on the export of raw ore exports by 2022 to make miners process minerals in the country.

Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies and Susan Fenton