Indonesia is Suffering the Consequences of China's EV Explosion

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague
indonesia is suffering the consequences of china s ev explosion

Electric vehicle naysayers love to talk about the environmental impact of mining raw materials for batteries. While those arguments are often rooted in some degree of truth, they’re generally made as the only argument and are levied without much evidence for support. Though it’s true that mining and processing nickel, cobalt, lithium, and other materials is awful for the environment, we’re learning more about the geopolitical and financial implications of the practice. 

Jalopnik reported that a Chinese nickel refinery’s operation in Indonesia is destroying the local ecosystem and accelerating the decline in natural habitats for wildlife. The Indonesia Morwali Industrial Park is located on a large island in the country and has released so much pollution over the last ten years that locals can’t fish or use the water. 

People report warming waters and fewer fish, and in some cases, the once-bountiful rivers have turned into trickling streams of mud. Workers at the facility report sickness from inhaling chemicals and ash from the mining processes. For China, the impacts are far away and seemingly unimportant. Its financial resources and size give it a great deal of power in the arrangement, as the giant nation has invested billions and amassed a 61 percent stake in the total nickel production. 

As Jalopnik pointed out, the negative impacts of this partnership are felt solely by Indonesia. China is some 5,000 miles away from the island nation and has little concern for the destruction happening so far from its doorstep. As demand for electric vehicles accelerates, we’re likely to hear about more of these situations, and other such problems are going on right now. 

Earlier this year, Tesla agreed to invest billions of dollars in nickel and a potential battery factory in the country over the next few years. It seems odd that Indonesia would continue pursuing such investments, knowing the havoc they wreak on its environment. Still, it’s likely tough for the country’s leaders to ignore the goldmi-I mean, nickel mine under their feet.

[Image: jafriyalbule via Shutterstock]

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7 of 21 comments
  • Lne937s Lne937s on Nov 29, 2022

    Chinese battery manufacturers like BYD and CATL are quickly transitioning to lower-cost LiFePO4 chemistry. That does away with the need for nickel and cobalt in batteries.

    But if people are really concerned, they can stop buying stainless steel appliances, as stainless steel alloys consume the majority of nickel. And avoid everything "chrome" plated, which has a thick plating of nickel and a very thin layer of chromium on the top.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Nov 30, 2022

    The problem lies with poor safety and environmental practices not the minerals or products being manufactured.

    • See 3 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Nov 30, 2022

      @JeffS - my point is that you can ensure that any mining or manufacturing can be done in a clean and safe fashion. That costs money therefore reducing profits.

  • Redapple2 C2 is the best. C3 next. Then C7 (looking at you jimII).
  • Jeff S Vulpine--True the CAFE rules are for ICE.
  • Gray I grew up in the era of Panther and Fox platforms. If only they developed a good looking two door Conti. The four doors became a cult in their own right. And kept the 351W as a top line option.
  • Vulpine ABSOLUTELY YES!!! Bring back the TRUE compact trucks. The demand for them is far higher than the OEMs want to admit.
  • Brn More likely, with Google having troubles, the money tree isn't as ripe as it once was and cutbacks are needed.I hope the overall industry continues to evolve. When I get the the point I can't easily drive, I would still appreciate the independence that autonomous vehicles can bring.