Indonesia: Two dead after riots at a Chinese nickel factory

Indonesia: Two dead after riots at a Chinese nickel factory

Two workers, including a Chinese, were killed at a nickel factory in Indonesia amid unrest following a protest over working conditions, authorities said Monday.

The clashes erupted on Sunday evening on the Indonesian island of Celebes at the territory of the Gunbuster Nickel Industry (GNI) factory, a local subsidiary of the Chinese concern Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry.

Indonesia, which is very rich in nickel, has seen rapid development of nickel mines and processing plants of this important mineral to produce stainless steel and batteries for electric vehicles on the island of Celebes in recent years.

A 30-year-old Chinese worker and an Indonesian man were killed in Sunday’s clashes, Celebes Center police spokesman Didik Supranoto told AFP, without giving details.

Local workers who were striking in protest over pay and working conditions clashed with law enforcement when they tried to enter the factory and set fire to machinery and vehicles, he said.

“There was rioting because they forcibly entered GNI territory,” despite security personnel, the spokesman noted.

“They participated in anarchist acts, arson and destruction. From there, clashes erupted between the striking workers and the workers who were inside.”

At least 71 people were arrested after the riots, including 17 on charges of vandalism, the spokesman said in a statement.

According to local media, hundreds of police officers had to be deployed around the factory after the clashes.

“We express our deepest condolences after the demonstrations turned into chaos (…) because these incidents affected not only the company but also the neighboring communities,” GNI said in a statement.

The factory, which was inaugurated in 2021 and has a production capacity of 1.8 million tons of nickel, has stopped operating, said the police spokesman.

The nickel reserves on the island of Celebes, crucial to Indonesia’s ambitions to develop a sector ranging from ore mining to electric vehicles, have attracted interest from Chinese corporations and the world’s largest automakers.

American electric vehicle giant Tesla is in negotiations for significant investments in the sector, according to Indonesian authorities.