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Copper Futures Rise on Freeport-Indonesia Tensions

October 3, 2017 at 16:58 by Andrew Moran

Copper prices are trading higher on Tuesday amid concerns regarding the Freeport-Indonesia deal. Investors are bullish on the industrial metal on reports that there are growing tensions between the Indonesian government and Freeport-McMoran, the US miner that operates the Grasberg mine in the Papua province.

December copper futures rose $0.01, or 0.30%, to $2.9675 per pound at 16:44 GMT on Tuesday. The red metal is trading at a one-week high, but its momentum has stalled over the last 30 days. Year-to-date, copper has advanced nearly 17%.

Traders are diving into copper over bets that supplies could take a hit in the Freeport-Indonesia talks.

According to Reuters, citing a mining ministry official, Freeport can resume exporting copper concentrates in the middle of rough negotiations pertaining to its permit at the Grasberg mine. Earlier this year, Indonesia awarded Freeport a permit to export more than one million tonnes of copper concentrate until February 2018, but shipments may be halted this month if talks were suspended.

Moreover, The Financial Times is reporting that the government discovered in an audit that Freeport did not pay approximately $450 million worth of royalties to the state. This could throw a wrench in the discussion between the US miner and the Indonesian government.

Investors are also paying attention to a Bloomberg report that Peru is attempting to surpass Chile as the biggest copper producer on the planet. With worries over a potential supply glut, if Peru moves ahead with President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s efforts to expand the nation’s mining industry, then it could contribute to international supplies.

Peru Mines and Energy Minister Cayetana Aljovin told the business news network:

We are not saying it will be easy. We can reach those levels if Peru keeps sending positive signals. We need to create the necessary conditions for mining to grow in our country so the government can invest in basic services, healthcare, education and infrastructure.

The South American nation has a lot of work to do to catch up to Chile. US Geological Survey (USGS) data show that Peru’s estimated copper reserves stood at 81 million metric tons in 2016, compared to Chile’s 210 million metric tons of the industrial metal.

Copper is also gaining from a weakening US dollar as the greenback tumbled 0.08%. A lower US dollar is good for dollar-denominated commodities like gold, silver, and copper because it makes it cheaper for foreign investors to purchase.

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