December 2021
The recent history of nickel has had a distinctly Indonesian focus. This is hardly surprising given the spate of developments seen in the country. While initially the focus was predominately on shipping raw ore to China, investment and development activity shifting the focus to domestic downstream processing has been in overdrive since the Indonesian government brought forward a raw ore export ban to the start of 2020.
From almost out of nowhere, it will see the country overtake China as the largest finished nickel producer in the world. With the increasing interest in nickel as an input into electric vehicle (EV) batteries due to global ambitions to reach net-zero carbon emissions and the emerging Green Economy, new sources of the metal are in hot demand. With such virtuous aims, consumer expectations are extending to ‘responsibly sourced’ materials to help them save the world. As Indonesia looks to move from supplying the stainless industry to the battery material sector, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations—particularly around the fact that energy-intensive nickel processing is facilitated in Indonesia by coal-fired power plants, as well as around Indonesia’s environmental standards and labour laws—will increasingly raise their head. While China may be less fussed, Western consumers are expected to be increasingly discerning about where their raw materials come from.