RPT-Vale Indonesia struggles to find nickel smelter partners after rule change -CEO

 (Repeats story with no changes to text)
    By Cindy Silviana and Wilda Asmarini
    JAKARTA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Nickel producer Vale Indonesia
 said Indonesia's recent policy shift to allow ore
exports is helping keep global prices of the metal low, and
complicating efforts to establish partnerships for new smelter
    Nickel miners globally have been grappling with persistent
weakness in the market, partly the result of moves by Indonesia
and the Philippines to pull back on restrictions targeting their
mining sectors. 
    A resumption of Indonesian nickel ore exports in May this
year has been a boon for China's nickel pig iron (NPI) producers
that depend on such ore, but has meant trouble for the rest of
the world's nickel producers. 
    For Vale Indonesia, that has meant difficulties in
establishing or maintaining partnerships for several ferronickel
smelter projects on the island of Sulawesi. 
    "Some have told us verbally and some have put it in
writing," Vale Indonesia CEO Nico Kanter told Reuters in an
interview, speaking of partners who have said they are pulling
the plug or delaying decisions amid the pricing and regulatory
    Japanese miner Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd is
partnering with Vale on a nickel processing plant in Pomalaa in
Southeast Sulawesi.
    But "they are now more concerned about the calculations of
their internal rate of return, because this is a $2 billion
project," Kanter said. 
    Another potential Chinese co-investor has decided to
withdraw from a ferronickel smelter project in Bahodopi, Central
Sulawesi, he said. 
    Benchmark nickel prices on the London Metals Exchange
 have gained about 3.5 percent since Indonesia's rules
changed, and were at $10,815 per tonne on Wednesday.
    "If there wasn't a (rule change), prices could have improved
more," said Kanter. 
    Nickel prices made small gains since the latest rule change,
but remain well below levels seen prior to mid-2015. 
    Indonesia has already issued permits for 8 million tonnes of
nickel ore exports, sparking worries that further permits will
follow, Vale Indonesia Corporate Secretary Ratih Amri said.
    "This is not in line with the government's vision of
creating added value in the nation," Amri said.    
    Indonesia's ban on unprocessed ore exports in 2014 had paid
off, Amri said, attracting at least $6 billion in nickel smelter
    As of June, however, around half of Indonesia's newly
constructed nickel smelters were shuttered as a result of the
market's shaky prices.
    Indonesia's mining ministry has denied that its ore export
policy shift is to blame for the closures. 
    Coal and Minerals Director General Bambang Gatot said the
smelters were closed because of "uneconomical technologies".
    Vale Indonesia's shares have recovered in recent weeks and
were at 2,600 rupiah ($0.1951) on Wednesday, still around 14
percent less than where they were before the policy shift.
    Below is a table of companies and their corresponding nickel
ore export quota allocations (in wet metric tonnes).
 Company                                      Quota
 PT Fajar Bhakti Lintas Nusantara         1,065,215
 PT Aneka Tambang                         2,716,948
 PT Ceria Nugraha Indotama                2,300,000
 PT Trimegah Bangun Persada               1,559,799
 PT Gane Permai Sentosa                     519,933
                             Total        8,161,895
    ($1 = 13,327 rupiah)

 (Reporting by Cindy Silviana, Wilda Asmarini and Bernadette
Christina Munthe in JAKARTA; Writing by Fergus Jensen in
SINGAPORE; Editing by Tom Hogue)