The Weda Bay Nickel Project, owned by the Chinese company Tsingshan (57%) and the French company Eramet (43%), is nearing the completion an open-pit nickel and cobalt mine and production plant in a protected forest area on the coast of Halmahera Island, North Maluku, Indonesia.
However, the ambition of this project goes beyond the open-pits. It has been pitched as an industrial park, one which would, according to the company’s job postings , “be the first vertical, from mine mouth to finished products, integrated Electric Vehicle battery and stainless steel Industry complex in the world.”
The Weda Bay project threatens thousands of hectares of tropical forest, risking to fragment the only forest corridor between sections of the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park–areas once proposed to be part of the park themselves. These threatened forests are important habitat for endemic and protected species. The negative impacts of similar projects,such as the Morowali Industrial Park, are already being documented .
Indigenous rights violations continue, after more than a decade of opposition
Indonesian community and advocacy groups JATAM (Mining Advocacy Network), WALHI, KIARA, and KAU formed an international coalition to oppose the project and the World Bank’s support of it. The groups filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the World Bank in 2010.
The project is located in the lands of the O Hongana Manyawa (more commonly, but against the wishes of the people themselves, referred to as Tobelo Dalam) and Sawai Indigenous Peoples. Weda Bay Nickel failed to adequately consult with these communities when scoping this project. Contact for many O Hongana Manyawa with people from outside their community began as a result of mining exploration activities .
As of publication, construction is nearing completion and according to the company the mine and production plant will be operational in 2020 . Yet, intimidation by security forces, and dispossession of access to forest and other social and environmental concerns have sparked protest and denunciations of the projects.
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Banner photo: Weda Bay nickel camp site at Tanjung Ulie cape on Halmahera island. Source: Muhammad ECTOR Prasetyo, Flickr