KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA — 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.
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