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Will Indonesia's minerals ban hurt its current account?

Sunday, 12 Jan 2014 | 11:15 PM ET
Why Indonesia's mineral ban is ultimately beneficial
Sunday, 12 Jan 2014 | 7:50 PM ET
Suryo Sulisto, Chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explains how the government's ban on mineral ore exports will support the economy in the long-term.

Indonesia's mineral ore export ban, imposed on Sunday, shouldn't worsen the nation's already worryingly high current account deficit, analysts told CNBC.

The long-awaited ban, which policymakers hope will boost profits from its mineral sector by forcing miners to process their ore at home before export, was announced by President Susilo Babang Yudhoyono on Sunday.

The ban specifically targeted the nickel and bauxite industries - worth more than $2 billion in annual shipments - as last minute changes excluded exports of copper, iron ore, lead and zinc concentrates, providing reprieve for U.S. mining giants Freeport and Newmont which produce 97 percent of Indonesia's copper.

(Read More: Down but not out - Indonesian plays still offer value)

The move comes at a time when foreign investor confidence in Indonesia is already fragile, after the fallout from speculation about a tapering of the Federal Reserve's asset-purchase program earlier this year put the spotlight on Indonesia's high current account deficit - 3.8 percent of gross domestic product in the third quarter of 2013 - and battered its currency to historic lows. Some analysts fear the drop in foreign revenue could widen the current account deficit further.

But Suryo Sulisto, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told CNBC on Monday he believed the move would be beneficial for Indonesia's current account deficit in the long term.

Nickel matte in workers cupped hands
Gillianne Tedder | Photolibrary | Getty Images
Nickel matte in workers cupped hands

"Yes, it will have some affect [on the current account deficit] - maybe some decrease in export income - but I think that it is to be expected," said Sulisto. "Long term, it's better for Indonesia as it will increase the value of our exports and also it will create jobs," he added.

(Read more: Why these emerging market taper victims can tough it out)

Other analysts also told CNBC they weren't overly concerned about the impact on the current account deficit.

"It's not quite as onerous as the market was fearing, so maybe that is why the markets have been a bit relieved this morning," said Alex Latzer, leader of Asia metals and mining at Maybank Kim Eng Securities.

"In terms of the current account deficit, now that you've taken the big tax payers, the big value-add, the concentrates, out of the equation - maybe you're at 0.25 percent of the current account deficit," he added.

Chinese stainless steel factories, meanwhile, are expected to be the most severely affected by the ban, analysts say.

(Read more: Indonesia braces for impact of mineral export ban)

"On the Chinese side they've had to scramble. They rely on 70-80 percent of their nickel ore from Indonesia, so they'll have to take a look at other countries, maybe the Philippines," added Maybank's Latzer, who added that Philippines' resources firms, such as Nickel Asia, should get a boost as a result.

Markets cheer dilution of Indonesia mineral ban
Alex Latzer, Leader, Asia Metals and Mining at Maybank Kim Eng Securities, describes why the Indonesian president's last-minute decision to change the ore export ban was the right one.

Other losers could include state-owned nickel miner PT Perusahaan Perseroan Aneka Tambang (Antam) and hundreds of other smaller domestic miners.

But according to Suliso, many smaller miners have prepared for the rule change by building their own smelters allowing them to produce the raw materials themselves rather than export them overseas.

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"In the medium to long term this is good, because companies that have prepared themselves are ready to get their smelters in operation," he said.

But the last minute exclusions to the export ban gave the Indonesian rupiah a boost on Monday, lifting it 1.1 percent to a one-month high at 12,020 per dollar, suggesting that fears over whether the country can fund its deficit had eased.

Meanwhile Australian nickel miners rallied on expectations of higher prices. Western Areasclimbed 9 percent while Mincor Resources jumped 4 percent on Monday.

—By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie

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