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June 3, 2024

Indonesia’s Rich Resources – Mining Minerals

8 Minutes

Indonesia's vibrant economy owes much of its vitality to the wealth of mineral resources scattered across its diverse terrain. From the lush rainforests of Sumatra to the rugged landscapes of Papua, Indonesia boasts a rich array of minerals that have been instrumental in shaping its economic trajectory.

Coal Sector: Driving Economic Growth

Among Indonesia's mineral riches, the coal sector shines brightly, serving both local energy needs and driving export revenues. In 2023, the country achieved a record-high coal production of 775.2 million tons, surpassing the target of 694.5 million tons. This trend has been increasing steadily, with figures of 564 million tons in 2020, 614 million tons in 2021, and 687 million tons in 2022.

Domestic coal utilization is projected to reach 213 million tons in 2023, exceeding the target of 177 million tons. Despite lower prices in 2023 compared to 2022, coal prices remained relatively stable. Factors contributing to the record production include revised work plans, increased budgets, and rising international demand.

Some challenges faced by the industry include rising mining costs and the strengthening US dollar. Amidst an energy transition, some coal mining companies are diversifying into new ventures such as hydropower, electric vehicles, and nickel smelters. Projections suggest continued growth in coal production until around 2035, followed by a gradual decline as the country transitions to net zero emissions.

China and India are expected to boost Indonesia's coal production in 2024, potentially surpassing the target of 710 million tons. However, coal exports may dip in 2024 due to moderate global demand and oversupply in the market. Despite a decline in export value, Indonesia still shipped 550 million tons of coal in 2023.

The government has set the 2024 production target at 710 million tons, 8 percent lower than the record-high production of 775 million tons in 2023, due to oversupply in the global thermal coal market.

Tin Industry: A Strategic Focus

Tin, an essential component in various industries including electronics and packaging, fuels industrial expansion and economic prosperity.  

Indonesia's tin industry stands as a vital driver of both domestic growth and global trade. Tin, an essential component in various industries including electronics and packaging, fuels industrial expansion and economic prosperity. President Joko Widodo's commitment to restricting raw mineral exports underscores Indonesia's strategic focus on downstream processing, positioning the nation as the world's largest tin exporter.  

The urgency for smelters is highlighted by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, aiming for downstream independence in processing raw materials. Indonesia currently operates a limited number of smelters, with plans to add more to meet domestic processing needs.

Indonesia's largest tin miner, PT Timah, recently secured a permit to export around 30,000 metric tons of refined tin in 2024, easing supply tightness and impacting market prices. However, delays in approving mining companies' annual work plans have disrupted exports, contributing to price fluctuations.

The recent decline in Indonesian tin exports has unsettled both paper and physical markets, with implications for global supply and demand dynamics. The shift in permitting processes adds to uncertainties, impacting market sentiments and price trends.

China's increased imports of Indonesian tin reflect strategic stockpiling amid concerns over supply disruptions from other sources, such as Myanmar. Reduced availability coupled with rising demand signals tightening market conditions, prompting price reactions and heightened market scrutiny.

Nickel Industry: A Catalyst for Economic Expansion

Indonesia's nickel industry has witnessed a surge in global demand, driven by abundant reserves and emerging green technologies such as electric vehicles. President Joko Widodo's ban on nickel ore exports in 2020 aimed to boost domestic processing, resulting in a notable increase in refined nickel exports.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), ferronickel exports surged from 1.5 to 5.7 million tons between 2019 and 2022, valued at $2.5 to $13.6 billion. Additionally, nickel and its derivative products saw exports increase from 91.5 to 775.6 tons during the same period, with values escalating from $813.1 million to $5.9 billion.

Major players in Indonesia's nickel industry, such as PT Vale Indonesia Tbk (PTVI) and PT Antam Tbk, are strategically expanding their operations. PTVI is focused on nickel matte production and plans to invest in HPAL smelters for electric vehicle battery materials, while Antam aims to boost feronickel production and explore new mining areas.

However, despite the economic promise, downstream development and environmental sustainability remain challenges. Indonesia aims to position itself as a leader in nickel production and value-added products, fostering sustainable development and prosperity.

Yet, Indonesian miners are currently grappling with plummeting nickel prices, nearing their lowest levels since 2021. Meidy Katrin Lengkey, the Secretary-General of the Indonesian Nickel Miners Association (APNI), attributes this decline to oversupply of Indonesian nickel products, a trend observed since early 2023. Concerns arise that if prices dip below $15,000 per ton, many miners will struggle to cover production expenses, potentially leading to operational difficulties.

In response, APNI has taken initiatives like establishing the Indonesia Nickel Price Index in collaboration with the Shanghai Metals Market (SMM) to potentially uplift nickel prices and curb illegal mining activities. Additionally, APNI proposes recommendations to the government, including halting the construction of new nickel smelters to support existing ones and preserve reserves.

Indonesia, home to one of the world's largest nickel reserves alongside Australia, aims to stabilize nickel prices to benefit electric vehicle battery production. The recent uptick in nickel prices, following a brief decline, has prompted optimism within the stainless steel market. However, concerns linger regarding the sustainability of this momentum, with divergent outlooks for the future trajectory of nickel prices.

As Indonesia navigates its role in the global nickel market, its efforts to maintain control over pricing underscore its influence. Despite challenges and criticisms, Indonesia's dominance in nickel production remains a significant factor shaping global market dynamics, particularly in the context of emerging green technologies like electric vehicles.

Copper Sector: Navigating Global Markets

Indonesia's copper industry, buoyed by substantial reserves and global demand, holds a prominent position in the global market. With significant deposits, notably the renowned Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia holds a prominent position in the global copper market. Copper's pivotal role in construction, electronics, and telecommunications underpins industrial processes and economic expansion.

According to GlobalData, Indonesia ranked as the sixth-largest copper producer globally in 2022, with output increasing by 20% from the previous year. Over the five years leading to 2021, Indonesia witnessed a 4% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in production, although a slight decline of 0.55% CAGR is expected between 2022 and 2026. Indonesia recently approved a three-year mining quota for Freeport Indonesia, totalling 219.8 million metric tons of copper ore, to enhance efficiency in quota approvals.

Freeport Indonesia, a major player in the industry, is set to mine 63.16 million tons in 2024, 77.52 million tons in 2025, and 79.12 million tons in 2026. Despite contributing 4% to global production, Indonesia faces competition from major producers like Chile, Peru, China, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Copper exports from Indonesia surged by 19% in 2022, with Japan being the primary recipient, although a slight decline is anticipated between 2022 and 2026.

Notably, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), a leading copper and gold mining company, is nearing the completion of its Manyar Smelter in Gresik, East Java, with the first phase slated to commence operations in August 2024. Representing an investment of US$3.17 billion, the smelter is progressing according to schedule, targeting full capacity by December 2024. Once operational, it will process all of PTFI's mining products domestically, in line with its special mining business license (IUPK).

The Manyar Smelter, designed as the largest single-line copper smelter globally, is expected to process 1.7 million tons of copper concentrate annually, yielding up to 600,000 tons of copper cathodes. Additionally, it will produce by-products such as sulfuric acid, gypsum, and lead, alongside copper cathodes, pure gold and silver bars, and platinum group metals (PGM).

While PTFI seeks an extension for copper concentrate exports until December 2024 to align with the smelter's operational timeline, the government awaits commitments from PTFI regarding the smelter's commissioning. Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Arifin Tasrif, reiterated the government's stance, emphasizing the need for mutual commitments to meet obligations. PTFI's lobbying efforts reflect the importance of synchronizing export relaxations with the smelter's operational readiness, ensuring a smooth transition in Indonesia's copper industry.

Bauxite Industry: Addressing Surplus

Indonesia's bauxite industry plays a pivotal role in the global aluminium market, thanks to abundant reserves mainly situated in Kalimantan and Riau islands. The nation ranks as the fifth-largest producer globally, with a 0.44% increase in output in 2022. However, the recent ban on bauxite exports since June has led to a surplus, challenging domestic consumption due to limited alumina plant capacity.

Ronald Sulistyanto, Chairman of the Indonesian Bauxite and Iron Ore Entrepreneurs Association (APB3I), highlighted struggles in securing investments for alumina plant projects, leading to production cuts and halts. However, there's hope for a policy relaxation to alleviate the situation.

Efforts are underway to enhance alumina production capacity, with the government pushing for the expedited completion of eight alumina plants under construction. These plants aim to consume surplus bauxite and produce approximately 8.5 million tons of alumina.

The government projects a surplus of 13.86 million tons of unsold bauxite domestically in 2024, reflecting operational challenges for many mining companies. Slow approval processes for mining plans exacerbate the issue, hindering operations and raw material supply to alumina factories.

While challenges persist, joint efforts between industry stakeholders and the government seek to address the surplus and enhance downstream processing capacity, crucial for sustaining Indonesia's bauxite industry and maximizing its economic potential.

Future Outlook

The mining landscape in Indonesia is dynamic, characterized by continuous evolution driven by technological advancements. Embracing cutting-edge technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, and advanced drilling techniques promises to revolutionize the sector. These innovations not only enhance operational efficiency and safety but also contribute to reducing environmental footprints, setting new standards for responsible mining practices.

While Indonesia's focus has predominantly been on nickel, the nation's mineral wealth extends beyond, presenting opportunities for exploration and development across diverse geological landscapes. Efforts to tap into these resources hold the potential to further solidify Indonesia's position in the global mining arena, diversifying its portfolio and ensuring sustained economic growth.

Sustainability lies at the core of Indonesia's mining agenda, with initiatives underway to prioritize environmental conservation and community welfare. Strategies encompassing reforestation, water conservation, and waste management are gaining momentum, alongside robust stakeholder engagement aimed at fostering trust and ensuring alignment with broader societal goals.

The future of Indonesia's mining sector appears promising, buoyed by ambitious production targets and a steadfast commitment to sustainable practices, technological innovation, and collaborative stakeholder efforts. As Indonesia continues to assert its dominance in the global mining market, it underscores the nation's pivotal role in shaping the industry's trajectory, emphasizing both economic prosperity and environmental stewardship.

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