BHP Billiton said on Sunday it was still considering whether it would sell its coveted $500 million Maruwai coal mine in Kalimantan in its entirety or only offer a 25 percent stake, as the government has requested more information.
A number of local companies have expressed interested in the mining giant’s Maruwai project.
According to a report this month by Investor Daily, state-owned coal producer PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam is leading a four-company consortium to buy Maruwai. It is joined by state-owned firms PT Aneka Tambang and PT Pelat Timah Nusantara and the privately owned PT Rajawali Corporation.
Investor Daily said the consortium wanted to buy the mine outright but BHP only wanted to sell 25 percent.
Other bidders for Maruwai include PT Adaro Energy, PT Indika Energy, PT Bayan Resources and PT Itochu, it said.
“We are continuing to review our commercial options in relation to the Maruwai coal project,” Kelly Quirke, BHP’s spokeswoman, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
“We have sought further information on these sale options, through an expression-of-interest process involving a number of parties. That process is continuing,” she said, without giving any details on timing.
Indra Diannajaya, president director of PT Lahai Coal, one of BHP’s Indonesian units, said the sales process required a lot of discussion with potential buyers. “Surely, it needs time,” he said.
BHP is also considering selling six other smaller exploration-stage concessions.
The government said it had not been informed on the progress of the process since September. “We still do not know whether they will stick with their plan to build a partnership or to sell all their mining concessions,” said Bambang Gatot Ariyono, director of minerals and coal at the Energy Ministry.
The government needed to be kept informed because it will give the final approval on any deal, he said.
In reply, BHP’s Quirke said: “We are continuing to engage with the Indonesian government and other key stakeholders on this issue.”
Pri Agung Rakhmanto, an energy analyst at the Reforminer Institute, urged BHP to update the government about the progress of the sales process. “They have to remember that the sale could not be done without government approval,” he said.
BHP, the world’s largest exporter of coking coal, which is used to make steel, said in June that it was reviewing the Maruwai project with the intention of selling it, after scrapping the development of Maruwai’s Haju coal field in Central Kalimantan, because it didn’t fit with its long-term investment strategy.
Haju was the first stage in the Maruwai project, a metallurgical coal deposit in Central Kalimantan expected to produce one million tons a year.
The field, estimated to contain 5.4 million tons of coking coal, was expected to start producing next year.
Ending work at the mine, and selling the other concessions, would effectively end BHP’s 25-year presence in Indonesia.