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Freeport Indonesia breaks ground on US$3 billion copper smelter

JAKARTA : American mining giant Freeport McMoRan broke ground on Tuesday in construction of one of the world's biggest copper smelters near its existing refining operations in Indonesia.

The US$3 billion facility in Gresik, East Java, will have capacity of 1.7 million tonnes of copper concentrate and is expected to start operations in late 2023 or early 2024.

"The smelter is built with a single line design, which is the largest in the world," Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo told a televised groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday.

"I hope that Freeport Indonesia's presence in this special economic zone in Gresik will be an attraction for other industries to enter," he said.

The commencement follows months of deliberation between building a copper smelter in partnership with China's Tsingshan Holding Group in Weda Bay, or one near its existing operations in Gresik.

Freeport Indonesia said in July said the two companies had failed to reach an agreement.

It also said it had signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract with Japan's Chiyoda.

The new smelter will also have an output of 600,000 tonnes of copper cathode and include a US$200 million precious metal refinery, with output capacity of up to 54 tonnes, Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto, told the ceremony.

Hartarto said Indonesia can finally reap the benefits of exporting value-added copper after decades of exporting mostly copper concentrate.

"This is historic because it will be produced entirely in Gresik. This project requires water, gas... The economic benefits are huge," Hartarto said.

(Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty)

Source: Reuters

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