Sulawesi islanders grieve land lost to nickel mine – by Eko Rusdianto – October 6, 2022)

WAWONII ISLAND, Indonesia — The coconut palm has been a source of food and identity for centuries among the people of Wawonii Island. In the local language wawo means above and ni’i is the word for coconut — Wawonii is an island crowned by coconuts. “Now it has become a mine,” said Abdul Latif, a farmer born here in Roko-Roko village. “Wawonii should just be renamed.”

Like many areas of Indonesia’s nickel-rich Sulawesi region, Wawonii is caught in the tension between international demand for green energy and the need to preserve landscapes. Indonesia accounts for both some of the world’s largest reserves of nickel and its third-largest tropical forests.

Beneath this island of at least 70 bird species and around 1,000 distinct plants lies a giant reserve of nickel, which is needed in the batteries powering electric vehicles and other clean energy technologies.

Nickel mining company PT Gema Kreasi Perdana (GKP), a subsidiary of the Harita Group, holds a concession covering about 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) by Abdul’s farmland in Roko-Roko village. Around 700 hectares (1,730 acres) of the 2018 concession is covered by a so-called borrow-to-use forest permit (IPPKH), in which the Ministry of Environment and Forestry authorizes conversion of state forests for development projects.

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