UPDATE 1-Newmont seeks injunction for return of Indonesian copper mine workers - CEO

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MELBOURNE, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Newmont Mining Corp said on Thursday it is applying for an injunction to get workers back to its Batu Hijau mine as it fights a controversial tax on copper exports that led the company to halt shipments from Indonesia this year.

The top U.S. gold miner stopped exporting copper concentrate from the mine on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa in January after the government introduced an escalating tax on metal concentrates in a push to force miners to build smelters in the Southeast Asian country.

Newmont has taken a hard line against the tax by filing for international arbitration against the state, arguing that the export tax violates the company's investment agreement with the country.

Newmont CEO Gary Goldberg told an industry function in Melbourne that the company would "seek interim injunctive relief to get our people back to work", although he said it could take several months to gain such relief.

It would then take "at least several weeks to ramp back up to full production if that relief is granted," Goldberg said in a speech.

Despite the dispute, Indonesia remained a "great place" to be working in the long term, Goldberg said.

In addition to pursuing arbitration, Newmont says it has also been negotiating with the government to try to resolve the impasse. An Indonesian official has previously denied any talks have taken place.

Fellow miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, last month sealed a deal by agreeing to a much reduced export duty of 7.5 percent, and is set to resume copper concentrate exports.

Newmont halted copper mining at Batu Hijau on June 5, saying its concentrate storage facilities were full.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Richard Pullin)