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Updated December 24th, 2023 at 14:36 IST

Indonesia: 13 dead, 38 injured after explosion in China-funded nickel plant

A nickel smelter furnace explosion owned by Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) on Sulawesi Island resulted in the tragic death of thirteen workers.

Manasvi Asthana
Indonesia nickel smelter furnace blast.
Indonesia nickel smelter furnace blast. | Image:Unsplash
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A nickel smelter furnace explosion owned by Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) on Sulawesi Island resulted in the tragic death of thirteen workers, with an additional 38 individuals sustaining injuries, as reported by the owner of the industrial park housing the smelter.

The explosion occurred at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday (2130 GMT on Saturday) while workers were conducting repairs and installing plates in the furnace. Tragically, the incident claimed the lives of eight Indonesian workers and five Chinese workers, as reported by Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park. The fire was successfully extinguished by 09:10 a.m. local time, according to the statement.

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Initial investigations

"Based on initial investigations, the explosion (was) possibly caused because there was still some explosion-inducing liquid at the bottom of the furnace. During the repairing process, an explosion occurred," stated a spokesperson for IMIP.

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The initial explosion set off subsequent blasts as numerous oxygen cylinders, employed in welding and cutting furnace components during the repair, became involved, explained the spokesperson.

IMIP, owned by China's Tsingshan and its local partner Bintang Delapan Group, is an industrial park primarily focused on nickel production, producing stainless steel and carbon steel. ITSS is identified as one of the tenants situated within the industrial park, according to IMIP.

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IMIP will collaborate with relevant stakeholders to probe the incident and bear all expenses for the treatment of victims, as stated by the company, as reported.

World's largest nickel producer

Indonesia, the world's largest nickel producer, has seen nickel grow in significance, attracting billions of dollars in global investments. This trend follows the government's 2020 ban on the export of unprocessed ore.

The largest economy in Southeast Asia is actively working to cultivate downstream nickel industries and attract substantial investments from manufacturers of electric vehicles and their corresponding batteries.

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Advice from the president

Despite President Joko Widodo's eagerness to advance Indonesia's nickel processing industry, there have been multiple deadly accidents in recent years. The president emphasizes the need for improvements in safety and has committed to enhancing the monitoring of environmental standards within the sector.

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Published December 24th, 2023 at 14:36 IST

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