JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for faster progress to wrap up a deal with Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX.N) on rights to the giant Grasberg copper mine, which the U.S. firm owns, officials said on Friday.
The chief executive of the world’s biggest publicly traded copper company — which under a framework deal agreed in August to divest 51 percent of the mine — held talks with officials in Jakarta earlier in the day.
The deal is intended to replace an existing contract with a “special mining permit” and give Jakarta greater control over its mineral resources.
But significant differences remain including on how Grasberg, the world’s second-largest copper mine, will be valued and on the timing and structure of the required divestment, leading some analysts to raise doubts about the future of the agreement.
Hadi Mustofa Djuraid, an aide to Mining Minister Ignasius Jonan, said Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson had met Jonan and other company and government officials in Jakarta on Friday morning after the president said “the sooner the better” referring to an end to the talks.
“In principle, Freeport is still committed in accordance with the agreement,” Djuraid told reporters, noting that issues over divestment and state revenues from Grasberg had not been resolved yet by the finance ministry.
Under Widodo’s direction, Jonan will “help the negotiation process” with Freeport alongside Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and State Owned Enterprise Minister Rini Soemarno, “so this problem is resolved immediately,” Djuraid said.
“In negotiations there’s always a bargaining process,” he added, declining to provide detail on the talks.
A spokesman for Freeport’s Indonesian unit declined to comment.
The government is seeking a “win-win” solution as quickly as possible, Widodo said late on Thursday, according to an official transcript of remarks the president made to reporters in Banten province west of the capital Jakatra.
“It’s already been three years of heated arguing, but this is almost finalised,” Widodo added.
Adding pressure to end the dispute, Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) told parliament this week that between 2009 and 2015, Freeport Indonesia’s royalty and levy payments were $445.96 million lower than they would have been if the miner had taken up a new mining permit during that period.
“The risk of the dispute escalating and ultimately going to arbitration has increased,” Jefferies analyst Christopher LaFemina said in a research note this week, referring to the divestment issues, and cutting Freeport’s target share price to $19 from $23.
“We are increasingly concerned that a resolution will not be reached,” LaFemina added.
Jefferies estimates the value of the Freeport Grasberg stake to be divested at $6.7 billion.
Reporting by Wilda Asmarini and Gayatri Suroyo in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Susan Taylor in TORONTO and Nicole Mordant in VANCOUVER; Writing by Fergus Jensen and Ed Davies; editing by John Stonestreet