Sat, 08 Mar 2003

PTBA finds 230 million tons of new coal reserves

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State owned coal miner PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam (PTBA) has discovered more than 230 million tons of coal reserves in South Sumatra's East Kungkilan area.

The publicly-listed company said on Friday that the discovery raised its total coal reserves by 3 percent to 7.3 billion tons from 7.1 billion tons.

"With the new find, our company has a greater leverage to increase coal exports," PTBA president Ismeth Harmaini said in Jakarta.

Currently, the company produces an average of about 10 million tons of coal per year. Part of the output is exported, while the remainder is sold at home, including to state electricity company PLN.

Data on coal exports was not available.

Ismeth said it was currently expanding its export market to include Malaysia and Spain which, respectively, need one and two million tons of coal per year.

Japan is one of the world's biggest importers of coal, importing 120 million tons each year.

Ismeth said Indonesia exported 18 million tons of coal each year to Japan, of which some 300,000 tons were supplied by PTBA. "Japan offers huge opportunities for coal exports," said Ismeth.

Meanwhile, Wimpie S. Tjetjep, the director general for geology and mineral resources at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said the new find was made possible by technical assistance given by the Japan-based New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

The assistance was made available through a grant by the Japanese government. "The grant is not binding," said Wimpie.

However, an official at the ministry has said that Japan was interested in assisting PTBA find more coal reserves, to ensure a sufficient supply of coal to Japan.

After the new finding, PTBA and NEDO will explore more fields that are suspected of having coal reserves, especially in the Bunian Sukamerindu field in South Sumatra.

From a preliminary survey, it has been learned that the field might have some 100 million tons of coal reserves.