In­done­sia ‘still weigh­ing’ re­peal of nickel ore ex­port ban

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

JAKARTA: In­done­sia is still con­sid­er­ing whether to re­sume nickel ore ex­ports amid broader talks on the min­ing rules in South­east Asia’s big­gest econ­omy, the min­ing min­is­ter said yes­ter­day, and ex­pects to make a de­ci­sion within weeks.

In­done­sia banned ex­ports of un­pro­cessed nickel ore in 2014. Smelter com­pa­nies have said they fear a re­ver­sal of the ban would un­der­mine prices of the metal and put at risk up to US$12 bil­lion in in­vest­ments.

“It is still be­ing dis­cussed whether nickel (ore) can be ex­ported or not,” Min­ing Min­is­ter Luhut Pand­jai­tan told re­porters, re­fer­ring to rules on nickel ore. The gov­ern­ment ex­pects to reach a de­ci­sion on the rules within weeks, he said.

Pand­jai­tan said the gov­ern­ment was look­ing into rules on ore with a 1.8% nickel con­tent, “be­cause no one can process it do­mes­ti­cally. Per­haps we will con­sider ex­port­ing it.”

The Philip­pines took the crown as the world’s top nickel ore ex­porter af­ter In­done­sia banned nickel ore ship­ments, and now ac­counts for around one-quar­ter of the world’s mined nickel sup­ply, most of which is shipped to China.

But In­done­sia has found com­pen­sa­tion in ship­ping nickel pig iron to China, India and other buy­ers, and the in­dus­try now wor­ries that re­sum­ing ore ex­ports could un­der­mine the prices for such semi-fin­ished and re­fined me­tals.

“Ac­tu­ally no one sup­ports there be­ing ore (ex­ports) any more,” Jonatan Han­dojo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of In­done­sia’s main smelter in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion, told Reuters.

Over­turn­ing the ban would go against the wishes of most of the par­tic­i­pants in In­done­sia’s nickel smelter in­dus­try, Han­dojo said, dis­miss­ing a “hand­ful” of com­pa­nies, such as In­done­sian state owned miner Aneka Tam­bang, which hope that In­done­sia will again open up nickel ore ex­ports to prop up in­come and sup­port fi­nanc­ing for smelter in­vest­ments.

Pand­jai­tan said: “There is no way we can sat­isfy ev­ery­one, but we are try­ing to be as fair as pos­si­ble, and to act in the in­ter­ests of the gov­ern­ment, the peo­ple of In­done­sia and in­vestors in that sec­tor.”

Nickel prices hit a seven-week high of US$10,900 (RM44,908) a tonne on the Lon­don Metal Ex­change last week, af­ter the Philip­pines in­ten­si­fied its crack­down on nickel min­ers.

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