Indonesia ‘still weighing’ repeal of nickel ore export ban
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.