New technology could cement Indonesia’s dominance of vital nickel (The Economist – July 5, 2023)

But harvesting the crucial metal will be bad news for the country’s rainforests

Each year scientists discover an average of five new bird species. In 2013, on a trip to a remote set of islands in Indonesia, researchers found ten in six weeks—the biggest haul in more than a century.

The region in question, known as Wallacea after Alfred Russel Wallace, a 19th-century naturalist, is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Its rainforests host creatures found nowhere else, such as the maleo, an endangered bird that uses sunlit beaches and geothermal heat to keep its eggs warm rather than incubating them itself.

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How China Came to Dominate the World’s Largest Nickel Source for Electric Cars – by Jon Emont (Wall Street Journal – July 5, 2023)

Chinese firms mastered a process that unlocked Indonesia’s ore for use in making EV batteries

Across the Indonesian archipelago, new industrial plants are going up to process chunks of nickel ore for use in electric-car batteries. Five years ago, there were none. What changed? Chinese companies had a breakthrough.

They tamed a refining process that was once unwieldy, unlocking Indonesia’s expansive deposits for the nickel-hungry EV industry. In doing so, they established Chinese dominance over what has grown into the world’s largest source of the commodity.

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Indonesia’s coal burning hits record high — and ‘green’ nickel is largely why – by Hans Nicholas Jong ( – July 3, 2023)

JAKARTA — Indonesia burned more coal in 2022 than any other year, a preliminary analysis shows, putting the country on track to become one of the largest carbon emitters from fossil fuel in the world.

Data from the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources showed that coal consumption amounted to 745.72 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) in 2022, a 33% increase from 558.78 million BOE in 2021. The data shows the country’s coal consumption to be the highest ever by a very large margin.

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Column: Court case shines a harsh light on London Metal Exchange – by Andy Home (Reuters – June 25, 2023)

The first part of the London Metal Exchange’s (LME) courtroom drama is over after three days of legal argument at London’s Royal Courts of Justice. The LME, owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, now awaits judgment on whether its cancellation of nickel trades on March 8 last year was lawful.

US-based hedge fund Elliott Associates and market maker Jane Street Global Trading (Jane Street) argue its action was unlawful and are demanding $472 million in damages. The 146-year-old exchange contends it was justified in closing the market and cancelling trades because $19.7 billion of margin calls would otherwise have triggered a “death spiral” of member defaults.

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Saudi’s PIF emerges as lead bidder for $2.5 billion Vale base metals stake – by Staff ( – June 20, 2023)

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is leading the bid to acquire a $2.5 billion stake in Vale’s nickel and copper operations, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

The report said PIF might strike the deal for a roughly 10% stake through a joint venture it set up in January with Ma’aden, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

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The World’s Most Feared Investor Heads for Showdown With the LME – by Jack Farchy, Mark Burton and Jonathan Browning (Bloomberg News – June 17,2023)

(Bloomberg) — A decade ago, Paul Singer did battle with the government of Argentina — and won. Next week, the notoriously pugnacious hedge fund boss is taking on a bastion of the City of London, the 146-year-old London Metal Exchange.

For Singer, the case is personal, say several people familiar with the matter. When on March 8 last year the LME decided to cancel billions of dollars in nickel trades as prices skyrocketed, Singer was appalled and affronted, seeing it as a perversion of the free market with few precedents in the modern history of finance.

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Red floods near giant Indonesia nickel mine blight farms and fishing grounds – by Riza Salman – June 14, 2023)

KOLAKA, Indonesia — Ansal grabbed a makeshift raincoat, an empty rice sack, and ran home as the rain began to pound the fields of Pomalaa. A few hours later, after the rain stopped, the 49-year-old returned to his fields. “Everything is red,” Ansal told Mongabay Indonesia, here in Kolaka district in the province of Southeast Sulawesi.

In previous years, the occasional floods were more manageable, but this downpour caused the river to burst its banks. The ensuing overflow caked Ansal’s field in a layer of knee-deep sludge, drowning the newly planted rice under water the color of clay.

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RPT-COLUMN-Nickel prices coming supply glut but stocks keep falling – by Andy Home (June 7, 2023)

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) – Nickel has been the under-performer of the London Metal Exchange (LME) base metals pack this year. LME three-month nickel sank to a nine-month low of $20,310 per tonne last week and at a current $21,500 is now down by 31% since the start of the year.

Nickel is pricing in a looming supply glut as Indonesia builds out ever more production capacity in its race to be an electric vehicle battery metals giant. The country’s mined output grew by 48% last year and by another 41% in the first three months of this year, according to The International Nickel Study Group.

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EV Makers Confront the ‘Nickel Pickle’ – by Jon Emont (Wall Street Journal – June 4, 2023)

Large amounts of the mineral are needed for electric car batteries, but getting it out of the ground and refining it often requires clearing rainforests and generating large amounts of carbon

In the electric-vehicle business, the quandary is known as the nickel pickle. To make batteries for EVs, companies need to mine and refine large amounts of nickel. The process of getting the mineral out of the ground and turning it into battery-ready substances, though, is particularly environmentally unfriendly.

Reaching the nickel means cutting down swaths of rainforest. Refining it is a carbon-intensive process that involves extreme heat and high pressure, producing waste slurry that’s hard to dispose of.

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OPINION: Mining companies need to look at new ways to reduce biodiversity impacts – by Tom Drabble (Benchmark – May 22, 2023)

Critical mineral deposits crucial to the clean energy transition can be found across the globe. As mining companies cannot control where geological deposits form, they are forced to tackle whatever challenges are present in the location of which they are found. One of the largest challenges within the environmental “E” of ESG is how to prevent biodiversity loss due to company operations.

It is crucial that biodiversity is considered and appropriately monitored at all stages, from acquisition through to mine closure and rehabilitation. Strategies for biodiversity management of a mine site should begin with an environmental impact assessment and mitigation strategies and targets set.

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Report: EV battery making riddled with rights violations, environmental threats – by Subel Rai Bhandari (Radio Free Asia – May 16, 2023)

Companies including Panasonic, Tesla, and Toyota should check their supply chain, rights group says.

Human rights violations and environmental abuses were found in two nickel supply chains in the Philippines and Indonesia, home to more than half of the world’s supplies. They provide batteries to companies including Panasonic, Tesla, and Toyota, said a report released Tuesday by a rights research group.

The lack of transparency in electric vehicle battery supply chains means end-user companies must be held responsible, as they can easily distance themselves from the lower-level abuses and avoid addressing associated risks, the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) said in its report “Powering Electric Vehicles.”

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Future of Canada’s mining industry hangs on who gets U.S. subsidies, with nickel the ‘litmus test’ – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – May 17, 2023)

Execs worry a quirk in the Inflation Reduction Act could allow nickel powerhouse Indonesia to qualify for tax incentives, making it almost impossible for North American companies to compete

Last month, Republican congressman Pete Stauber of Minnesota penned a pointed letter to United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai before she embarked on a trip to Asia.

“I write to express concern over recent comments by Indonesian government officials that the country is seeking to enter a limited free trade agreement with the U.S., to increase trade of critical minerals needed for EV batteries and other renewable technologies,” Stauber said in the letter, dated April 14.

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LME Fights to Regain Trust After Last Year’s Nickel Crisis (Bloomberg News – May 16, 2023)

(Bloomberg) — The embattled London Metal Exchange is still trying to rebuild faith in its nickel contract after an epic short squeeze last year, according to Chief Executive Officer Matthew Chamberlain.

The crisis last March, when the metal used in stainless steel and electric vehicle batteries spiked 250% in little more than 24 hours, brought the venerable LME to the brink of collapse. It raised doubts about the exchange’s viability as the world’s benchmark pricing mechanism for nickel and was followed by plunging trading volumes and frequent wild price swings.

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The New EV Gold-Rush: Automakers Scramble to Get Into Mining – by Mike Colias and Scott Patterson (Wall Street Journal – May 15, 2023)

A scarcity of EV battery materials pushes car companies and miners to work closer together; for both, there is a learning curve

When General Motors began outlining plans in 2020 to fully switch to electric vehicles, it didn’t account for one critical factor: Many of the battery minerals needed to fulfill its plans were still in the ground.

“I remember seeing a report from our raw-materials team at the time saying, ‘There is plenty of lithium out there. There is plenty of nickel’,” said Sham Kunjur, an industrial engineer now in charge of securing the raw materials for GM’s batteries. “We will buy them from the open market.”

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To Meet EV Demand, Industry Turns to Technology Long Deemed Hazardous (Japan News/Washington Post – May 12, 2023)

OBIRA ISLAND, Indonesia – On a remote island close to where the Pacific meets the Indian Ocean sits one of the first refineries built specifically to support the world’s transition away from fossil fuels. Rocks unearthed here contain traces of nickel, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. Extracting it, refining it and readying it for export is a gargantuan task.

More than $1 billion has been sunk into the processing facility, the first in Indonesia to use an acid-leaching technology to convert low-grade laterite nickel ore – which the country has in abundance – into a higher-grade material suitable for batteries. Foreign investors and lenders cite the project as evidence of their commitment to fighting climate change.

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