The approval process for the quotas, known locally as RKAB, has been delayed this year, raising concerns from nickel smelters who are facing depleting ore stock.

Indonesia, a major producer of minerals such as nickel, tin, and copper, requires all mining companies to secure RKAB approvals periodically before they are allowed to conduct mining activities.

"RKAB approvals for minerals are still on progress and the plan is to complete them by the end of March," said Irwandy Arif, special staff to the energy and mineral resources minister.

A total of 723 mineral mining companies applied for quota approvals, Irwandy said.

He did not provide the tonnage for the approved RKAB, nor the breakdown of each of the minerals. But he said the ministry has completed approvals for coal miners.

However, Indonesia Mining Association Executive Director Djoko Widajatno estimated that around 259 million wet metric tons of production quota for nickel have been approved, he said in a text message on Tuesday.

Last week, a director at the ministry said approvals have been issued for 145 million metric tons of nickel ore production this year, with approvals for more underway as authorities focused on processing requests for nickel and tin.

(Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Martin Petty and Christian Schmollinger)

By Fransiska Nangoy