Indonesian Workers Protest Following Deadly Blast at Chinese-Funded Nickel Plant

Wed Dec 27 2023
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MOROWALI, Indonesia: Hundreds of Indonesian workers staged protests against PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS), a Chinese-funded nickel-processing plant, following a fatal explosion that killed at least 18 people and injured dozens.

The incident occurred as workers were repairing a furnace at the plant on Sulawesi Island, a hub for Indonesia’s nickel production.

Protesters gathered outside the Morowali Industrial Park, where the plant is located, presenting a list of 23 demands to management. The demands include better maintenance of smelters, improved health clinics for emergencies, and a requirement for Chinese workers to learn the Indonesian language. The demonstrators emphasized that no production is worth a life.

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The explosion raised concerns about pay and working conditions, especially with China’s increasing investment in Indonesia’s nickel sector. Sulawesi is a key region for nickel production, a base metal crucial for electric vehicle batteries and stainless steel.

Among the victims was Muhammad Taufik, a 40-year-old welder, leaving behind a wife and two children. His family received compensation from ITSS. Thirty injured individuals are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

ITSS, a tenant in the industrial park, is majority-owned by Tsingshan Holding Group, the world’s largest nickel producer and China’s leading stainless steelmaker. The industrial park is majority-owned by Tsingshan and local partner Bintang Delapan.

This incident follows a similar one in January, where two workers, including a Chinese national, were killed at a nickel smelting plant in the Morowali Industrial Park during a riot sparked by protests over safety conditions and pay.

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