Can Copper Producers Weather Indonesia's Mine Ownership And Tax Changes?
Indonesia is expected to impose a mining export tax that will eat at the bottom line of international copper producers and may well make the country less attractive to investors in the long run. Still, many analysts expect copper producers to be able to weather any policy changes and remain invested in the country, at least in the near term.
The Indonesian government is mulling the possibility of imposing a mining export tax to cash in on the country's resource wealth, but the policy may backfire in the longer term if revenue is reduced by foreign companies shying away from doing business in Indonesia. Still, many analysts are taking the possibility of a mining tax in stride, at least for the near term. However, another concern is the impact of a recent law that caps foreign ownership of Indonesian mines. Beginning in June, the Indonesian government is expected to impose a 25 percent export tax on copper and other base metals, as well as coal, in an attempt to profit from the country's natural resources. The tax could rise to 50 percent by 2013. According to Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, the question is now which commodities will be taxed to what extent and when, rather than whether an export tax will be imposed at all. It appears, however, that a ban on raw mineral exports is unlikely to go through, at least this time around. In addition, Indonesia introduced a law last month that will force foreign companies to divest at least 51 percent of their shares to Indonesian investors over a ten-year period, backtracking on the 2009 mining law that allowed foreigners to fully own mining licenses. There is no doubt that Indonesia is rich with the red metal, and as the sixth-largest copper producer in the world, it could certainly benefit from the price increase the metal has seen on international markets over the past few years. Mining in general accounted for about eleven percent of Indonesia's gross domestic product last year, and the question on the minds of international investors is whether the country's latest assertion of resource nationalism will help or hinder growth in the long run. Foreign direct investment to Indonesia reached a record $20 billion in 2011, with $3.6 billion of that going into the mining sector. Industry insiders are worried that the policy changes will hurt Indonesia's allure to foreign investors. The change in mine ownership law “will threaten Indonesia's mining investment climate,” said the Indonesian Mining Association's Executive Director, Syahrir Abubakar.