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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Miners make case for resuming contract negotiations

Tue, December27, 2011

The Jakarta Post reported that, problems with the renegotiation of mining contracts in the country are far from over, as agreements on several crucial issues are still yet to be found.
The government remains adamant that it will not compromise on its intention to ramp up state revenues by increasing royalties, while miners on the other hand insist that some points in the 2009 minerals and coal law are “irrational” and may create uncertainty in terms of the outcome of their investments.

The Indonesian Mining Association (IMA) revealed that renegotiations had stalled due to three major issues: the size of mining areas, state revenues and contract extensions. In a bid to make progress on the stagnant talks between the government and miners, the association proposed solutions to the three issues based on what it saw as fair for both parties. With the proposals, it expected that deals would be made, which would foster an air of certainty in relation to operations.

On the issue of state revenues, the association claimed that it was hard for mining companies to adjust the amount of royalties to the level set by the government in the 2003 regulation on tariffs for non-tax revenues for the energy and mineral resources sector (3.75 percent of sales for gold, 3.25 percent for silver and 4 percent for copper). “If the government wants to raise royalties, it also has to think about other financial obligations paid by companies, such as the corporate income tax, the amount of which is still 35 percent even though the 2008 law on income tax revised it to 25 percent,” said Syahrir AB, an executive director of the IMA, in Jakarta on Monday.

The government could not force mining companies to pay higher royalties without adjusting its other financial obligations because such economic burdens would reduce the profitability of their projects, he explained. If the goal was to raise state revenues from the mining sector, he suggested that the government apply a threshold for mining companies’ profits. For example, if a company made a profit margin of more than 25 percent due to the soaring prices of commodities, the government could apply an additional tax, he added.

The second suggestion was related to the size of mining areas. The association said most mining companies needed at least 70,000 hectares to make a mining project “economical”. However, the 2009 law on minerals and coal determined that the maximum size for mineral mining was 25,000 hectares, with coal mining at 15,000 hectares.

“In our last meeting with the government, it understood our reasons. The government agreed that the size of an area granted to a company would be judged based on the long-term plan it proposed to the government,” Syahrir reported. That model requires the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to have the human resources to review the plan and judge whether the size of area proposed by a company is reasonable or not. If the reviewers say that the proposal is unreasonable, the government can grant the permit for a smaller area.

The third suggestion was about the contract extension. Currently, mining companies can extend the contract by “two times 10 years”, but the authority to grant approval for the extension is in the hands of the head of regions by issuing mining permits. The association deems that the model creates uncertainty over the future of mining projects. It suggests that the contract extension clause is included into mining contracts (KK) and contracts of work (PKP2B).

The director general for minerals and coal at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Thamrin Sihite, said that out of 42 mining contract holders and 76 contracts of work, there were companies that agreed to all renegotiation points, and some that partially agreed and disagreed.

“About the suggestion in relation to the size of area, the government will review it first, if the proposal is in line with the government vision, we may approve it,” he said over the phone. However, he reminded that renegotiations had to be looked at on case by case basis as each company had different problems.

IMA proposals:
•The implementation of a profit threshold to allow the government to tax mining companies if the latter’s profit margins exceed the threshold.
•Determine the mining area based on the profitability of each mining project. The IMA estimates that a company needs at least 70,000 hectares to make a project profitable.
•Contract extensions have to be included into mining contracts (KK) and contracts of work (PKP2B) to create certainty. ( source The Jakarta Post)

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