After the GNI rejected their demands, the workers went on strike from 11 to 14 January. On the last day more 500 security personnel sent to the industrial park. Workers present during the strike say security forces fired shotguns at the crowd. “Bullets were fired everywhere. It was chaos,” says one GNI employee.
According to official reports, two workers, one Chinese and one Indonesian, died and 71 people were arrested. A hostel with 100 rooms burned down, cars and equipment were destroyed.
Huayue Nickel-Cobalt, Gunbuster Nickel Industry, Morowali Industrial Park in Indonesia, Tesla and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But statement from GNI CEO Te Cha Les, posted on the company’s website Feb. 15, said “there are still sub-optimal things” regarding work safety. “We urge guidance and guidance to improve a healthier, safer and more comfortable work environment for the entire workforce,” he added.
Labor problems at IMIP go hand in hand with serious concerns in Indonesia about the environmental impact of the nickel industry. According to the Brookings Institution report in September, Indonesia’s nickel sector is “particularly carbon-intensive and environmentally hazardous.” due to dependence on coal.
According to an analysis by Greenpeace Indonesia on behalf of WIRED, more than 8,700 hectares of rainforest have been destroyed since 2000 in Morowali North County, where IMIP is based, as trees were cleared to make way for mines and smelters. and the infrastructure needed to support them.
The erosion of the landscape has made it prone to natural disasters. In June, more than 500 houses were commissioned in the district. hit by flash floods. Land clearing made it an annual occurrence, resulting in drowning and destruction of homes, bridges, and government buildings. “Floods are now inevitable due to massive land clearing,” says environmental activist Kasmudin.
In Kouris, a village on the southeastern outskirts of IMIP, Bugis Vajo indigenous people told WIRED that the pollution had robbed them of their livelihood. “There are no more fish here,” says Juice Manondo, a 45-year-old fisherman who sits on the wooden deck of his stilt house. “Waste from IMIP killed them.”
In June 2021, a massive pile of coal fell into the hot water outlet of the IMIP steam power plant and flowed straight into the sea, turning the water black, according to Manondo. Waste dumping is also common. WIRED noticed contaminated water flowing straight into the sea a few hundred meters from Manondo’s house.
Manondo’s catch is now less than 20 percent of what it was ten years ago. Village fishermen are now forced to go farther from the coast in search of fish, but due to the high cost of fuel, the return on this is reduced. “Sometimes we fish just enough to feed ourselves,” says Manondo. “Soon we won’t even have that.
However, despite evidence that the nickel hype driven by demand for electric vehicles has already gone beyond social and environmental sustainability, the industry in Indonesia is still growing.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk set a goal will sell 20 million electric vehicles per year by 2030, more than 13 times the expected sales volume in 2022. The company’s competitors are also ramping up production of electric vehicles. Automotive research consulting company Virta forecasts that there will be 140 million electric vehicles on the world’s roads by 2030, up from 16 million in 2021.
In accordance with analysis According to research firm Rystad Energy, demand for high-quality nickel will outstrip supply in 2024. Russian invasion of Ukraine 11 percent nickel in the world, further tightened the market and raised prices on the London Metal Exchange to 35 year maximum.
To take advantage of the coming compression, IMIP owners doubling the size site and are in the middle of construction of a second park, the Weda Bay Industrial Park (IWIP), in the neighboring Moluccas, which will eventually cover 5000 ha.
“Whatever profit it brings, it won’t be enough,” says WALHI’s Hakim. “We cannot save the planet by destroying it.”
This story was published with the support of the Pulitzer Center.