Nickel demand is expected to increase six-fold by 2030, driven in large part by demand for electric vehicle batteries. Last week Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk famously promised a “giant contract” to any company able to source nickel “efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” submitted an investment proposal to the Indonesian government. The next day, the country announced that new mining projects would not be permitted to dump their waste into the ocean. Ocean dumping is a cheap and convenient way to dispose of mine waste, but due to its environmental and health impacts has been phased out or prohibited in most parts of the world. Indonesia’s move away from ocean dumping means two major projects, one an expansion of the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park and the other a new processing facility on Obi Island, must come up with safer plans to manage tens of millions of tons of waste.
Below are statements from Pius Ginting, the coordinator of Aksi Ekologi dan Emansipasi Rakyat (AEER) in Indonesia, and Ellen Moore, Earthworks’ international mining campaign manager.
“We are encouraged by the government’s commitment not to allow new projects that will dispose of harmful mine waste into the highly biodiverse Coral Triangle. The next step is for this standard to become law, and to develop safer tailings management systems at the Morowali Industrial Park and the nickel project at Obi Island. We must apply lessons learned from the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea and the ongoing environmental crisis at the Batu Hijau mine, both of which are currently polluting the ocean with deep sea tailings dumping. As our government enters into negotiations with Tesla this week, we reiterate that Indonesia’s nickel battery production must be built on strong environmental and social protections, which includes no deep sea tailings disposal or coal fired power plants.” — Pius Ginting, AEER
“This announcement from Indonesia proves that we don’t have to choose between clean energy and respect for human rights. Deep sea tailings disposal is a dirty and outdated practice that threatens marine biodiversity and coastal communities. Norway and Papua New Guinea must take notice. Both are pushing ahead harmful deep sea tailings disposal projects despite the risks to ocean life and strong opposition from impacted communities. But pressure is mounting from consumers and investors. Electric vehicle and tech companies don’t want to be associated with these irresponsible practices and can drive higher industry standards for minerals sourcing across the board.” — Ellen Moore, Earthworks