* Export permit for up to 1.1 mln tonnes copper concentrate
* U.S. VP raised Freeport dispute in discussion with Widodo
* Strike may impact Freeport's efforts to ramp up output
* Workers concerned over future employment amid contract
(Recasts with permit granted, adds comments on Pence, trade
By Fergus Jensen and Bernadette Christina Munthe
JAKARTA, April 22 Freeport McMoRan Inc collected
a permit to resume copper exports from Indonesia on Friday after
a hiatus of more than three months, hours after a state visit by
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who discussed the copper miner's
dispute with Jakarta.
Indonesia's trade ministry issued Freeport with a
permit to export 1.1 million tonnes of copper concentrate up to
February next year, although it was unclear how long shipments
Freeport is still at loggerheads with Indonesia over rights
to its giant Grasberg mine in Papua, and tensions with workers
threaten to disrupt its operations further.
Indonesia halted Freeport's copper concentrate exports in
January under new rules that require the Arizona-based company
to adopt a special licence, pay new taxes and royalties, divest
a 51 percent stake in its operations and relinquish arbitration
The dispute has cost the company and Indonesia hundreds of
millions of dollars. Jakarta has said it would halt exports
again if negotiations over sticking points were not resolved
within six months.
Freeport has also warned Jakarta, saying it had the right to
commence arbitration by June 17 if no agreement was reached.
Pence thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the
interim solution to the Freeport dispute on Friday but said more
steps were still needed, a White House foreign policy adviser
"We told them that there were more steps that needed to be
taken," the adviser said, noting this was the only business
issue Pence raised in his meeting with Widodo on Thursday.
Tensions are rising around Grasberg after Freeport laid off
thousands of workers there to stem losses from its dispute with
the Indonesian government over mining rights.
Freeport warned on Friday it would punish workers for
absenteeism, a day after one of the main unions announced plans
to strike over employment conditions.
"Freeport Indonesia has experienced a high level of
absenteeism over the last several days," Freeport spokesman Eric
"Absenteeism is being tracked and disciplinary actions will
be enforced under the terms of the Collective Labour Agreement,"
Freeport had "demobilised" just over 10 percent of its
workforce of 32,000 by last week, a number expected to grow
until the dispute is fully resolved.
The Freeport workers' union said the company's efforts to
reduce its workforce so far have had "extensive impacts on
workers and their families".
Workers are worried about the layoffs "because there are no
limits or specific criteria on workers who will be furloughed,"
the union said. It demanded an end to the furlough policy and
notified Freeport of plans to strike for 30 days from May 1.
"Efforts by the company to cut costs and reduce their
numbers of workers, this is what has made them feel agitated,"
said Virgo Solossa, a Freeport workers' union member told
Reuters, but said many other workers would not join the strike.
Adding to tensions around Grasberg, several Freeport workers
and police were injured in a clash in Papua on Thursday, when
officers fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in Timika.
Timika Police Chief Victor Machbon confirmed the details of
the incident and said about 1,000 demonstrators attempting to
free a union leader at a court hearing had not dispersed when
tear gas was fired.
According to the trade ministry, Freeport exported 1.17
million tonnes of copper concentrate to Japan, South Korea,
China, India and the Philippines in 2016.
(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Fergus Jensen, Wilda Asmarini
and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA, and Roberta Rampton
ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Tom
Hogue and Paul Tait)