Indonesia’s grand ambition to become an EV leader rests on nickel mining boom – by Yvonne Lau (Canada’s National Observer – April 19, 2024)

The Kawasi people of Indonesia’s Obi Islands have long fished for tuna, red snapper and grouper, and grown coconut, cashew and clove trees. But some village residents say their land and water have been destroyed and the quality of life has plummeted in the years since Harita Nickel, the $5-billion arm of Indonesian conglomerate Harita Group, started mining, refining and processing nickel in their backyard.

“We lost our plantation land to grow crops for our survival and future generations. We lost the right to express our opinions. The water has become cloudy, with white foam coming out of the pipes. We see that the fish are dying. Residents are now being monitored for skin diseases, coughing and sore eyes,” according to 36-year-old Nurhayati Jumadi, a mother of two and lifelong resident of Kawasi village with about 4,500 people.

Indonesia is home to one of the world’s biggest nickel reserves — a critical ingredient of the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain and a crucial element of the country’s quest to become an indispensable supplier. The archipelago nation has cornered the nickel market, supplying 40 per cent of the world’s nickel — a number that could surge to 75 per cent by 2030.

Now, Indonesia’s government has set a lofty goal to produce 600,000 EVs by 2030 and by 2027, will require Indonesia-produced EVs and related components to comprise of 60 per cent local content. “The government has captivated the imagination of the public in its quest to become an EV giant,” says Putra Adhiguna, managing director of the Energy Shift Institute, a think tank focused on Asia’s green transition.

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