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24 Jan 2023

AMY CHEW, Contributing writer, and ISMI DAMAYANTI, Nikkei staff writer - Nikkei Asia (Japan)

Indonesia: Violent clashes at Chinese-owned nickel smelting facility raise alarm over labour conditions

"Violence at Chinese-owned nickel smelter in Indonesia raises alarm" 24 January 2023

Recent clashes at a Chinese-owned nickel smelting facility in Indonesia are likely to spread to other parts of the country if the government and Chinese owners fail to address issues of safety, analysts say.

Protests, some violent, have occurred sporadically in recent years on the mineral-rich island of Sulawesi, which is experiencing an investment boom for mining nickel, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. Indonesia is keen to leverage its world-leading reserves of the metal and develop a domestic EV industry.

But issues of dangerous work environments, compensation and tensions between Indonesian and imported Chinese workers are casting an uncertain shadow over that scenario.

In the most recent clash, on Jan. 14, an Indonesian and a Chinese worker were killed at the Gunbuster Nickel Industry (GNI) smelter, owned by China's Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry, in the Morowali region of Central Sulawesi province.

Indonesian media site Kompas.com reported protesters demanded better safety conditions and pay. Several company vehicles were set ablaze, and about 100 dormitory rooms were damaged, according to Reuters.

Minggu Bulu, a member of a protesting labor group and a former GNI worker, cited deadly safety issues at the facility during the past year, including an explosion at the smelter, Reuters reported.

Nikkei contacted GNI and Jiangsu Delong seeking comment but did not receive responses by publication time. [...]

Part of the following timelines

Indonesia: Violent clashes at Chinese-owned nickel smelting facility as Indonesian workers protest over working conditions

Indonesia: Delong Nickel Industrial Area in Sulawesi