Indonesia deploys security forces after nickel smelter protest turns deadly

JAKARTA — Two workers were killed in clashes and riots at a nickel smelter in Indonesia over the weekend, officials said Monday.

Indonesian and Chinese workers in clashes involving protesters, workers and security guards at the PT Gunbuster Nickel Industry (GNI) smelter owned by China’s Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry. He died, said Didik Supranoto, a spokesman for the Central Sulawesi Police.

Several company cars were set on fire and about 100 dormitory rooms were damaged, Didik said.

According to National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo, 17 of the 71 people detained in the incident were suspected of vandalism and more than 500 security forces were deployed to secure the area. More reinforcements are coming.

“The smelter will resume operations tomorrow morning. We ask that the community and employees not be easily provoked,” he said in a news briefing.

According to Listyo, GNI’s factory had about 11,000 Indonesian workers and 1,300 foreign workers.

GNI is set to launch the smelter in late 2021 with an estimated annual capacity of 1.8 million tons and a total investment of $2.7 billion.

Protester Minggu Bulu, a labor group member and former GNI employee, said that over the past year there have been fatal safety issues at the facility, including a motorcycle crashing into heavy machinery and an explosion at a smelter. He said there was

GNI was unable to comment on the allegations, and police were unable to confirm whether a fatality had occurred.

“The implementation of occupational health and safety is so poor that we asked the company to do so according to the law,” said Minggu, adding that workers also lack proper safety equipment.

In a statement, the GNI said it was conducting a “thorough and thorough investigation” with police.

Violent protests have erupted sporadically in the mineral-rich region of Sulawesi, where a recent boom in investment in nickel, used in electric vehicle batteries, has erupted.

A government team was dispatched to the site on Tuesday and Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister who oversees the mining, will summon GNI’s management next week, said deputy Septian Hario Seto.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday that the Chinese embassy in Indonesia is in contact with Indonesian authorities about the incident.

“China will continue to maintain close communication with the Indonesian side to facilitate the legal and proper resolution of this case,” he said.

Bernadette Christina and Ananda Theresa