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UPDATE 1-Indonesia's mining exports at standstill after new rules -govt official

Yayat Supriatna
Friday, 24 Jan 2014 | 3:51 AM ET

official@

* Surprise inclusion of export tax adds to confusion over shipments

* Collapse of ore and concentrate exports likely to hurt govt revenue

JAKARTA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia's metal ore and concentrate exports have ground to a complete halt, a trade ministry official said on Friday, signalling the turmoil in the mining sector after a ban on ore shipments and an export tax were imposed nearly two weeks ago.

The Southeast Asian nation introduced a controversial ore export ban on Jan. 12, although last-minute amendments aimed to ease the impact of the export ban on concentrate miners like Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold and Newmont Mining Corp . They now face a progressive export tax on concentrates.

"There has been no concentrate export since January 12," Bachrul Chairi, director general of foreign trade at the trade ministry told Reuters. "As of now, no miners or companies have requested export approval for concentrate or processed ore from the trade ministry."

Freeport Indonesia and Newmont are in talks with the government over the new rules and are yet to resume exports since the new tax was introduced, while the Mineral Entrepreneurs Association has filed a legal challenge against the ore export ban.

Under the new rules, concentrate exports are allowed to continue for some minerals, including copper, lead, iron ore, zinc and manganese, though with different purity rules attached.

The surprise inclusion of an escalating export tax appears to have forced all other miners to stop shipments.

"It's a problem because nobody can abide by the export tax, including Freeport," said Erry Sofyan, secretary general of the Indonesian Bauxite and Iron Ore Entrepreneurs Association.

Indonesia is also the world's biggest exporter of nickel ore, refined tin, thermal coal and home to the fifth largest copper mine and top gold mine. Freeport and Newmont produce 97 percent of Indonesia's copper.

Indonesia's iron ore shipments to China jumped 72.5 percent last year to 17.6 million tonnes.

"Our supplier says the policy might be loosened next month, but right now it is forbidden," said a iron ore trader based in China's eastern Shandong province.

"We are planning to talk with some small miners in other countries like Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines for possible supplies."

Indonesia-based miners that process some or all of their metal production through smelters, like nickel producers PT Aneka Tambang and PT Vale Indonesia Tbk have escaped the full impact of the new rules.

The long-planned ore ban aims to eventually boost Indonesia's profits from its mineral wealth by forcing miners to process their ores before export.

But there are fears a short-term cut in foreign revenue could widen the current account deficit, which has undermined investor confidence and hurt the rupiah currency.

The ban is expected to cut government revenue by as much as $820 million this year, thefinance minister has said.

Thousands of mine workers have already been laid off ahead of the ban, sparking protests in Jakarta.