JAKARTA, April 5 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s first plant to produce battery-grade nickel chemicals is on track to start operations by 2020, though the project still needs an environmental permit that could take up to eight months to be approved, the developer told Reuters.
China’s Tsingshan Group and partners including GEM Co Ltd are building a $700 million high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plant at the PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, a nickel mining hub.
Ground breaking started in January on the plant, which is due to be completed within 16 to 18 months and will allow Indonesia to export nickel sulphate, a component for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs).
Nonetheless, some analysts have cast doubt on the ambitious timeline for the HPAL facilities, which are more complicated than other nickel-processing plants that Tsingshan has built.
“We are building it fast because that it is how we model our business to avoid higher costs, and we need also to catch up with the market,” Alexander Barus, coordinating executive director of IMIP, said in an interview.