Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg

RIO Tinto is set to sell out of the copper-gold wonder that is the Freeport-McMoRan-operated Grasberg mine, high in the remote and glacier-capped Sudirman mountain range in Indonesia’s Papua province, for a suggested US$3.5 billion. Not before time either, writes Barry FitzGerald.

Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg Rio has lingered too long at Grasberg

The Grasberg pit

Rio or RTZ as it was has been there since 1995, having beaten what was its Australian-listed subsidiary CRA to the punch when Freeport went looking for funds to finance the development of Grasberg (grass mountain) after having first tamed the wild region with the development of the nearby Ertsberg (ore mountain) mine.

The clash of aspirations over Grasberg was a trigger for the merger between what was RTZ and CRA, with the plucky Australian offshoot none too pleased that the boys from London had muscled in to its backyard to snare the Freeport deal.

But the reality is that neither London or Melbourne should have coveted Grasberg, even if its massive resource base and the engineering can-do of Freeport has made it the second biggest copper mine and the biggest gold min...