Crackdown on illegal mining forces Indonesia to import nickel ore – by Mercedes Ruehl and Harry Dempsey (Financial Times – November 5, 2023)

Large shipments from the Philippines needed to keep smelters operating

Supply shortages caused by Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal nickel mining have forced the country to import large quantities of ore from the Philippines to keep smelters operating. Indonesia, the world’s largest nickel producer, has in recent months pursued a corruption investigation across the government that has led to delays in the issuance of quotas for nickel mining.

More than 53,000 tonnes of nickel ore and concentrates were shipped in May and June from the Philippines to Indonesia’s Morowali region, where Tsingshan, the world’s largest stainless steel producer, runs a large nickel smelting complex, official Indonesian customs data shows.

Those imports continued until at least September, including a single shipment of 39,500 tonnes from the Philippines to Weda Bay, another large nickel smelting complex, according to industry executives and a customs document seen by the Financial Times.

Indonesia has rapidly risen to produce half the world’s nickel, a material vital to stainless steel and the batteries used in electric vehicles, but automakers and other customers are concerned the ferocious growth has come at a high cost.

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