RPT-Indonesia Battery-Grade Nickel Plant Awaits Environmental Nod-Developer


Date: Apr 08, 2019

JAKARTA, April 5 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s first plant to produce battery-grade nickel chemicals is on track to start operations by 2020, though the project still needs an environmental permit that could take up to eight months to be approved, the developer told Reuters.

China’s Tsingshan Group and partners including GEM Co Ltd are building a $700 million high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plant at the PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, a nickel mining hub.

Ground breaking started in January on the plant, which is due to be completed within 16 to 18 months and will allow Indonesia to export nickel sulphate, a component for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs).

Nonetheless, some analysts have cast doubt on the ambitious timeline for the HPAL facilities, which are more complicated than other nickel-processing plants that Tsingshan has built.

“We are building it fast because that it is how we model our business to avoid higher costs, and we need also to catch up with the market,” Alexander Barus, coordinating executive director of IMIP, said in an interview.

IMIP is also a minor stakeholder in the plant.

He said construction was currently at the excavation stage and the company is preparing an environmental impact assessment, known locally as AMDAL, which typically takes around six to eight months.

“This is something that we cannot rush,” he said, adding construction would proceed as soon as the developer gets a green light from Indonesia’s Environment Ministry.

According to initial research, it should be possible to neutralise waste, known as tailings, and remove toxic materials so that it can be safely disposed of, Barus said.

“Whether it will be an above-ground tailings or otherwise, we have to wait for the result,” Barus said.

Ary Sudijanto, an official at Indonesia’s Environment Ministry who oversees AMDAL proposals, said the ministry had not yet received a request from the Morowali plant.

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