TOKYO/JAKARTA Feb 13 Japan's Mitsubishi
Materials Corp aims to replace workers and resume
operations at Indonesia's main copper smelter in early March
after a labor strike forced it to halt operations except for the
refining process on Jan. 19, a spokesman said.
The Gresik smelter, owned by PT Smelting, produced about
190,000 tonnes of copper cathode in the year to March 2016 and
had planned to produce 260,000 tonnes this financial year
through March 31, without taking into account the impact from
the strike, Mitsubishi Materials spokesman Hiroshi Shimizu told
PT Smelting is 60.5 percent owned by Mitsubishi Materials,
while Freeport-McMoRan Inc's Indonesian unit holds 25
percent. The Gresik smelter on Java island takes up to 40
percent of Freeport's output of copper concentrate from its
Grasberg mine in Papua province, the world's second-largest
"PT Smelting has sent notice of dismissal to its about 300
workers late last month and is now hiring new workers with an
aim to resume operations as early as March," the spokesman said.
Indonesia introduced new rules on Jan 12 that require miners
including Freeport to develop additional smelting capacity and
halt their exports until they obtain new permits.
As a result of the rules, Freeport warned it could be forced
to slash output by around 70 million pounds of copper per month
and lay off workers at Grasberg, PT Smelting's main source of
As of Monday, Freeport had not resolved the permit issues, a
Jakarta-based spokesman told Reuters. He declined to comment on
Grasberg's production status.
"Exports are still banned as a result of the regulations
that were issued in January," Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza
Pratama said. "There has been no agreement."
The Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said PT Smelting has also
stopped exporting anode slime, a byproduct of copper concentrate
processing that includes other metals such as gold and silver,
due to the new rules.
Previously, Mitsubishi had sent anode slime to its Naoshima
plant in western Japan to extract gold and silver, providing the
company with additional revenues from the operation.
"We have applied for an export permit with Indonesian
government and we hope to resume exports of slime when PT
Smelting restarts operations in March," the spokesman said.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi in TOKYO and Fergus Jensen in
JAKARTA; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)