Indonesia Has Grand Ambitions for Its Nickel Industry – by Christina Lu (Foreign Policy – February 13, 2024)


As the country heads to the polls this week, the future of Jakarta’s bid is set to come into sharper focus.

Long before the energy transition gained momentum around the world, nickel powerhouse Indonesia dreamed of harnessing its mineral riches to transform its economy and wield greater leverage in the international marketplace.

The global shift away from fossil fuels and the growing demand for the critical minerals powering green technology have turbocharged Jakarta’s ambitions. Nickel is a key component in electric vehicle batteries, yet few countries can claim as big of a stake over the global nickel sector as Indonesia, which is home to some of the world’s biggest nickel reserves and mined half of the global supply in 2022.

Now, with more than 100 million voters expected to head to the polls on Wednesday to elect Indonesia’s first new president in a decade, the future of Jakarta’s bid is set to come into sharper focus. Current President Joko Widodo, commonly referred to as Jokowi, is set to leave office in October after holding power for a decade—the maximum term length allowed—raising questions about how exactly his successor will continue to shape the country’s booming sector.

“It’s clear that Indonesia doesn’t just want to be a source of raw materials that are then made more valuable in other parts of the world,” said Alex Becker, a policy analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. “They would probably like to have at least a refined nickel, if not a full-fledged battery, industry that makes them more valuable on the world stage.”

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