Metals News
UPDATE 1-Freeport Indonesia Sees Copper Output down 17 pct This yr
industry news
Mar 30,2011

JAKARTA, March 29 (Reuters) - Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc's Indonesia unit, which runs the giant Grasberg mine, expects its copper output to fall 17 percent this year to about 1 billion pounds by weight, its chief financial officer said on Tuesday.

The primary driver for the dip are differences in ore grades as Freeport Indonesia work through different sections of the Grasberg open-pit mine, a spokesman added, on the sidelines of the Ozmine conference in Jakarta.

"This year it will be about 1 billion (pounds)," CFO Daniel Hughes said on output. "We are (also) targeting $600 million (per year) over the next five years, so $3 billion in investments."

Indonesia, the world's top exporter of tin and thermal coal, is keen to increase revenue from the mining sector. Under a new mining and coal law, miners must by 2014 carry out a minimum of processing before exporting.

"The Grasberg operations does tend to be a fairly volatile operation, in terms of copper recovery and grades," said Credit Agricole analyst Robin Bhar.

"Resource nationalism is pretty prevalent in that region, and in Indonesia they want their exports to be value-added," Bhar added.

"They have been egging them on to build a smelter in Indonesia, rather than just export the concentrates."

Indonesia's mining sector attracted 53 trillion rupiah or $6 billion in bank financing up to September 2010, versus the 14 trillion rupiah that banks loaned to the industry in 2006, central bank figures show, despite uncertainties over the country's new mining law.


Freeport, the world's biggest publicly traded copper miner, also said its Indonesian shipments to quake-hit Japan have been unaffected.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami on March 11, spurred a nuclear crisis and caused the closure of ports in the world's third-largest economy.

"A portion of our (copper) concentrate does get shipped to Japan but so far there has been negative impact," said Hughes. "At this point in time, our indications are we're OK."

He was unable to give an exact figure on how much production was shipped to Japan, but said it was "double digit percentage-wise".

Freeport owns 90.64 percent of Freeport Indonesia, which operates the huge Grasberg copper and gold mine in Papua province, while the Indonesian government owns the remainder.

Grasberg is about 3,400 km (2,100 miles) east of Indonesia's capital Jakarta.

Around one year ago, Freeport said it was in talks with Indonesia's province of Papua about selling a stake in its Grasberg mine.

Grasberg, the world's largest gold mine, has been operated by Freeport since 1973, and has been the site of sporadic violence in the few years.

Rebels in the eastern province, who have waged a low-level insurgency against the government for four decades, threatened to blockade the Freeport mine after police killed a separatist in one attack in late 2009.

"We're still currently discussing with the Papua province about their desire to acquire a portion of shares," said Hughes. "We're still in negotiations."


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