Minister defends construction of Gresik smelter

Minister defends construction of Gresik smelter

Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia has said that the government is looking to boost Freeport's copper production capacity so that some of the copper can be processed in a smelter planned in Papua. (ANTARA/Youtube BKPM TV)

Jakarta (ANTARA) - Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia on Wednesday responded to protests surrounding the construction of Freeport Indonesia's smelter in the Gresik Special Economic Zone (SEZ), East Java, assuring that the government plans to process some copper in Papua.

The government is looking to boost Freeport's copper production capacity so that some of the copper can be processed in a smelter planned in Papua, he explained.

"I really follow the dynamics that are happening in Papua and West Papua, especially regarding the aspirations expressed by my brothers and sisters, whether it's the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, associations, youth organizations, customs, and even some of the intellectual groups have questioned why the smelter was built in Gresik," he said at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Some groups have even charged Lahadalia, who grew up in Papua, with forgetting his origins.

"I got a lot of protests, lots of letters, and some even said to me, 'Brother, it is like you are not from Papua'," he recalled.

He elaborated that the smelter being built in Gresik had been planned since 2017-2018. Gresik was chosen as Papua did not have adequate infrastructure at the time, particularly electricity, he said.

He said he had conveyed Papuan people's reservations and aspirations to President Joko Widodo with regard to the smelter.

The government has formulated comprehensive steps, which have involved Freeport and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, in order to meet the Papuan people's aspiration by pushing Freeport's copper production capacity so that some can be processed in the smelter to be built in Papua, Lahadalia informed.

Currently, Freeport's copper production capacity is around 3 million tons, 1.3 million tons of which is being used to meet the needs of the existing factory in Papua, he said.

The remaining 1.7 million tons would be distributed to the factory in Gresik, he added.

"We will increase Freeport's production capacity of copper (copper) from 3 million tons to 3.8 million tons or more. We have also communicated with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry. Furthermore, in the future, we will plan to build a smelter in Papua, and this has become part of the plan from what we have programmed," he informed.

He urged Papuans to fully support the plan. He said that being a Papuan himself, he had been fighting for the construction of a smelter since the day he joined the cabinet.

"God willing, we pray that as soon as possible, we will increase Freeport's copper production capacity from 3 million to 3.8 million or to 4 million. The rest will then be built for the smelter in Papua. Since I became a member of the cabinet, I have been fighting for this so that one of Freeport's smelters will be built in Papua. Only one thing I ask you: If there is a policy, please support it. Don't be like: We haven't made this, yet we already bar this thing, bar that thing. If we play it like that, it will be difficult for investors to enter," he urged.

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