abusesaffiliationarrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upattack-typeburgerchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upClock iconclosedeletedevelopment-povertydiscriminationdollardownloademailenvironmentexternal-linkfacebookfiltergenderglobegroupshealthC4067174-3DD9-4B9E-AD64-284FDAAE6338@1xinformation-outlineinformationinstagraminvestment-trade-globalisationissueslabourlanguagesShapeCombined Shapeline, chart, up, arrow, graphLinkedInlocationmap-pinminusnewsorganisationotheroverviewpluspreviewArtboard 185profilerefreshIconnewssearchsecurityPathStock downStock steadyStock uptagticktooltiptwitteruniversalityweb

The content is also available in the following languages: 简体中文, 繁體中文


20 Feb 2023


Indonesia: Labour exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation plague Morowali Industrial Park, campaigners say

See all tags Allegations

"Workers Are Dying in the EV Industry’s ‘Tainted’ City" 20 February 2023

A decade ago, Labota was a fishing village; today it’s been subsumed into a sprawling city centered around IMIP, a $15 billion, 3,000-hectare industrial complex containing steelworks, coal power plants, and manganese processors, with its own airport and seaport. Built as a joint venture between Chinese and Indonesian industrial companies, it is at the heart of Indonesia’s push to supply the electric vehicle market with nickel, a core component of batteries. [...]

Meeting this demand has come at a huge social and environmental cost. Workers claim that deaths and injuries are common at IMIP. Medical professionals and environmentalists say the polluted air and water are causing respiratory problems, sickness, and eye injuries and destroying forests and fisheries. The rush to expand production has pushed local communities and infrastructure to the brink of collapse.

“Labor exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation are undermining the socio-ecological transformation promised by electric vehicles,” says Pius Ginting, coauthor of a report by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation think tank on the industry. “The public needs to know the reality of what’s happening.” [...]

WIRED spoke to dozens of workers at IMIP, including five employed by Tesla’s supplier, PT Huayue Nickel Cobalt (HNC). Many of the workers arrived less than six months ago, and they describe working for up to 15 hours a day, earning less than $25—less than Indonesia’s median salary of around $30 a month. Some have not had a day off in three months. [...]

Working conditions at IMIP are “dangerous and deadly,” according to Katsaing, regional head of the National Workers’ Union (SPN), which has 300 members across 11 companies at IMIP. [...]

In January 2022, a worker was killed after being struck on the head by an excavator while not wearing a helmet. In June, the operator of a bulldozer was swept into the sea by an avalanche while working a night shift without lighting. 

Labor rights activists say that in its desire to bring investment into its nickel sector, the Indonesian government has weakened protections for workers. [...]

Huayue Nickel-Cobalt, Gunbuster Nickel Industry, Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park, Tesla, and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources did not respond to multiple requests for comment. [...]