Indonesia's Nickel Rush Fuels Deforestation, Pollution, and Threats to Indigenous Communities

Indonesia's nickel mining boom fuels deforestation, pollution, and threats to indigenous communities, highlighting the need for sustainable and responsible sourcing practices in the EV battery supply chain.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Indonesia's Nickel Rush Fuels Deforestation, Pollution, and Threats to Indigenous Communities

Indonesia's Nickel Rush Fuels Deforestation, Pollution, and Threats to Indigenous Communities

Indonesia, the world's largest nickel producer, is rapidly expanding its mining operations to become a top global supplier of electric vehicle (EV) battery minerals. However, a new report by Mighty Earth and Satya Bumi reveals the dark side of this nickel rush, with accelerating deforestation, pollution, and threats to indigenous communities.

The report found that the rate of forests lost to nickel mining has doubled between 2020 and 2023, overtaking palm oil as Indonesia's biggest source of deforestation. Some nickel mines are operating illegally in protected forest areas or too close to the ocean, causing pollution and damage to coral reefs. Indigenous communities like the Bajau seafarers have reported health problems and livelihood impacts from the mining activities.

The report directly ties the nickel concessions to Chinese battery producers and global EV manufacturers, highlighting the need for these companies to address the environmental and human rights abuses in their supply chains. Mighty Earth is calling for urgent action to stop the destruction caused by the unchecked nickel mining in Indonesia.

Why this matters: Indonesia's nickel mining boom has significant environmental and social consequences that extend beyond the country's borders. As global demand for EV battery metals grows, it is vital for companies and governments to ensure sustainable and responsible sourcing practices to protect forests, communities, and the climate.

U.S. ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy warns that the commodities being managed are not only the basis for economies but also indispensable for national security and the health of the planet, and they are under assault from China . Kennedy says Australia's Resources Minister Madeleine King is a "tireless advocate" for global standards in mining, rather than allowing "unchecked exploitation by state-owned Chinese companies in Indonesia and elsewhere."

The incoming president of Indonesia has signaled a continued focus on expanding the nickel mining industry, but there are calls for the government to enforce forestry laws and implement regulations to minimize the environmental and social impacts. The report recommends that mining companies join the Initiative for Responsible Mining and that EV manufacturers audit their supply chains to ensure sustainable sourcing of nickel.

Key Takeaways

  • Indonesia is the world's largest nickel producer, rapidly expanding mining operations.
  • Nickel mining is causing accelerating deforestation, pollution, and threats to indigenous communities.
  • Nickel concessions are linked to Chinese battery producers and global EV manufacturers.
  • Urgent action is needed to address environmental and human rights abuses in nickel supply chains.
  • The incoming Indonesian president aims to expand nickel mining, but calls for sustainable practices.