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Indonesia’s Factories that May Replace Russia’s Nickel Supply

10 March 2022

Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia - Indonesia is considered to be a substitute for nickel suppliers from Russia, which faltered due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

This is because Indonesia's nickel supply this year is expected to increase, particularly for the class 1 nickel metal produced by Russia, in the form of nickel matte, nickel sulphate, Mixed Hydroxide Precipitate (MHP), and Mixed Sulphide Precipitate (MSP) whose metal content has reached 99.9%. This class 1 nickel product is usually used as a raw material for electric vehicle batteries.

This was revealed by Steven Brown, Independent Consultant in the Mining Industry based in Australia.

Steven said that the nickel metal produced by Russia is class 1 nickel and Russia is the largest supplier of class 1 nickel in the world.

According to him, Russia's nickel supply cannot be replaced by other countries, except Indonesia.

“Russia is the largest supplier of Class 1 Nickel in the world. It is impossible for other countries to close this supply, except for Indonesia," he told CNBC Indonesia, quoted Wednesday (09/03/2022).

“This year, Indonesia will increase its production of nickel matte and MHP, so that at the end of this year nickel prices may fall again,” he said.

He assessed that the nickel price, which had broken above US$ 100,000 per ton yesterday, was indeed not normal. He also estimates that the increase will only happen for a moment.

At the beginning of the year, he added, the nickel price for 2022 is estimated at an average of US$ 17,000 to US$ 23,000 per ton.

Based on Statista data, Indonesia produced 1 million tons of nickel in 2021. Indonesia is the largest nickel producer in the world, beating the Philippines and Russia.

Meanwhile, the Philippines produced 370 thousand tons and Russia 250 thousand tons of nickel in 2021.

Indonesia's nickel matte production in 2022 is planned to reach 83.9 thousand tons, up from 82.3 thousand tons in 2021, based on data from the Directorate General of Mineral and Coal of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

One of the largest nickel matte producers in Indonesia is PT Vale Indonesia Tbk (INCO). Vale targets the production of nickel matte in 2022 to be around 65,000 tons.

In addition to nickel matte production, Indonesia has also produced MHP since last year. This MHP production uses High-Pressure Acid Leaching (HPAL) technology. MHP is a solid mixture of the hydroxides of nickel and cobalt. It is an intermediate product of the processing and refining of low-grade nickel before further processing into nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate.

So, how many MHP smelter projects are currently in Indonesia? Here's the review.

1. MHP Smelter in North Maluku

The MHP smelter was officially inaugurated on June 23, 2021, by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. Located on Obi Island, South Halmahera, North Maluku, this smelter is operated by PT Halmahera Persada Lygend, a subsidiary of the Harita Group.

The smelter's capacity is 365 thousand tons per year and is the basic raw material for electric vehicle battery components.

The US$ 1 billion smelter project or around Rp 14.4 trillion (assuming an exchange rate of Rp 14,400 per US$) is the first electric vehicle battery component raw material factory to operate in Indonesia.

Currently, Harita is also developing advanced production facilities to produce nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate, which are the main materials for electric vehicle batteries.

2. HPAL Smelter in Banten

In 2022, it is planned that there will be an additional new HPAL smelter that also produces MHP. Located in Banten, the company that operates the MHP smelter is PT Smelter Nickel Indonesia.

At the end of 2021, the construction progress reached 98.7% and is targeted to start operating in 2022. This means, there will be additional MHP production from Indonesia.

Source: CNBC Indonesia

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