Walhi Responds to Jokowi’s Claim of Downstream Nickel Benefits for Indonesia

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said that downstream nickel has benefited Indonesians since the smelter development provided a large pool of job opportunities for the citizens. 

In response to the claim, Muhammad Al Amin, the Director of South Sulawesi’s branch of the Indonesian Forum for Living Environment said that the benefits are not on par with the destructive nature of the nickel industry. “The [president’s] statement is untrue, it’s not based on the actual facts and data in the field,” said Al Amin to Tempo on Friday, August 18, 2023.

Currently, he said, thousands of farmers and fishermen have lost their source of income due to the smelter development. The statement is backed by the 2022 data from Statistics Indonesia, stating that the poverty rate in South Sulawesi reached 8.70%, Central Sulawesi touched 12.33%, and Northeast Sulawesi reached 10.11%. It’s worth noting that these three provinces are the biggest nickel producers.

Furthermore, the nickel industry is causing the deterioration of the ecosystem in rainforests, lakes, and the ocean. He said that rainforests are not only the supporting economic source for locals but the essential habitat for Sulawesi’s endemic population. Despite this fact, the majority of mining activity in Sulawesi disregards the protection of biodiversity.

For the sake of downstream, he added, the government issued mining business licenses inside the forest area. According to the Sulawesi Alliance of Walhi, the government issued 188 mining business licenses across Sulawesi, sacrificing 372,428 hectares of forest land in order to supply nickel ore. 

“The president turns a blind eye to the destruction of rainforest and other ecosystems caused by nickel mining,” he said.

A similar statement is relayed by the Director of Central Sulawesi’s Walhi Alliance, Sunardi. He said that downstream nickel caused air and water pollution. “People have the right to clean and healthy air,” said Sunardi. “We found that on average, smelter companies in Sulawesi do not have an appropriate waste management standard and system.”

Currently, the downstream nickel industry in Indonesia is dominated by Chinese companies. Andi Rahman, the Director of Northeast Sulawesi’s Walhi Alliance said that enjoys the benefits of downstream nickel the most. “And the locals’ ricefields and plantations are demolished instead,” he said.


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