Nickel Summit Conference Notes. Vol 142

The Nickel Summit was held in Jakarta on the 24th – 25th August, 2022 with the media partner of The Indonesian Miner. The two-day event was held in English, with a packed conference room of 150, and 550 on line attendance for each day. The attendees were provided with great many tables with facts and figures on many different projects, whereas this article is limited towards the general nature of the industry participants. The presentations were all very professionally prepared.

I apologize if these personal notes contain errors or omissions. This article should not be used for commercial decisions.

Ben Lawson undertook the moderator’s role and opened with a few remarks;

  • There is a need to grow the reserves of lateritic nickel ore (saprolite & limonite) to match the longer term needs of the rapidly growing smelter plants, and manage the high grading practices to ensure a sustainable industry. 
  • Indonesia does not lend itself to meaningful renewable energy (solar, wind) power supply, wherein a range of ESG issues need to be approached in a practical manner.
  • The present popular trend to emphasize the battery industry should become more focussed on what is practical and what is needed.
  • Congratulations to the China investors that were the industry for-runners to respond positively to the Governments ban on raw ore exports, in building the new generation of nickel (Ni) smelters. Many now follow this successful path.

Minister Address;

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment RI, spoke via zoom (without slides) on “How the Indonesian government leverages nickel reserve to support the world EV supply chains”. He read a prepared text in English to outline the significant tax and royalty contributions from the nickel industry to the government, and nickels boost to the overall economy. Luhut is keen to get more involvement from American companies. Later this year there will be a special trade meeting in Bali with US companies and key nickel industry executives and government parties.

Nickel Companies.

Several smelter projects were introduced, including Justin Werner of Nickel Industry Limited; Simon Milroy, chief Executive Office, PT. Merdeka Copper & Gold (Ni projects); Wahyu Budi Santoso, GM External Relations PT. Indonesia Weda Bay Industrial Park [IWIP]; Aldo Namora, Head of business development PT. Ceria Nugraha Indotama; Dr. R. Sukhyar, commissioner PT. Kendari Kawasan Industri Terpadu. There are a number of common factors;

  • Indonesia has the largest resources and reserves of nickel ore in the world. Indonesia is seen as the principal growth centre for new nickel production, with most new projects being completed by 2025.
  • Indonesian smelters are amongst the lowest cost producers of Nickel Pig Iron (NPI), stainless steel, nickel Matt.
  • Expansion, modification and new nickel smelting plants are constructed and commissioned in record short time.
  • Nickel smelting complexes are developed in “Industrial Parks” that have numerous tax, administrative and operational advantages that are conducive to the rapid growth of this industry.
  • The present high prices for nickel products indicate such billion-dollar smelter complexes can have Return On Investment (ROI) in a short period (2-5 years).
  • Most new capital investment comes from Chinese companies, though one Australian company [Nickel Industry Limited] is a significant player.
  • Nickel projects are considered as Class 1 for the production of stainless steel, NPI etc, and Class 2 for supply of precursors for the battery market. Note that this terminology of class 1 & 2 is apparently a marketing term directed at end products, whereas other nickel industry players use the class 1 & 2 terms to denote the source of nickel, with class 1 being sulphides and class 2 for laterites.
  • Nickel smelters adopt either the pyrometallurgy RKAF technology or the more capital intensive and complex HPAL technology.
  • There is tight and comprehensive scrutiny by the ESDM to ensure a Feasibility Study and Construction Permit is approved for implementation. The review includes technical aspects, manpower, funding, contractors, ESG, permits, marketing and management credibility.

Nickel Association.

Meidy Katrin Lengkey, Secretary General Indonesia Nickel Miners Association (APNI). There were 338 Nickel tenements (IUP) that were recently reduced by 112 (non-compliant) to have 226 remaining. Pyrometallurgy smelters are 27 operational, 28 in construction, and 6 in Feasibility Study [FS] stage. Pyrometallurgy smelter investment in operation is US$ 15.7 billion, to produce 4.7 million tpa of Nickel Pig Iron [NPI], with a workforce of 50,000. The 71 pyrometallurgy smelters will require 185,780,000 t/y saprolite, and 28,740,000 t/y limonite ore. Hydrometallurgy smelters are 2 in operation, 5 in construction and 2 in planning stage. The 10 pyrometallurgy smelters will require 50,570,00 p/y limonite and 1,200,000 t/y saprolite. Indonesia’s present nickel resource is 11.78 billion ton containing 170 million ton of Ni. Reserves are estimated at 4.6 billion ton with contained nickel content of 72 million ton.

APNI discussion emphasized the need to consider the speed at which Indonesia’s nickel resources shall be consumed, and the need to conduct further exploration. There is concerns of malpractice where some production tenement holders seem to be renting out their annual work plan approved production tonnages (RKAB) to other miners. There are ongoing concerns about standardizing the grade and price estimation as defined by seller, and accepted by buyer. There is some urging that there should be more on ground inspections by the various government agencies.

New Refinery Technology.

Romy Ramadhani, corporate finance for Trinitan Green Energy Metals (TGEM) introduced their new STAL technology [Step Temperature Acid Leach]. A trial operation plant (STAL ONE) is built near Jakarta where research can be undertaken efficiently. The second phase (IGNITE) is to install a modular commercial operation plant in West Papua, with ore sourced locally and barged in from nearby islands. The modules are to be built with input of 600 DMT/day of limonite, have temperature of 300- 700deg C, pressure of about 1 atmosphere, electricity 5.5 Mw, with output of 2,450 tpy as Ni, along with output products of MnO2, MgSO4, and Fe/Al residue. This technology is anticipated to have a lower carbon footprint, and cheaper capital at around US$20,000/ton feed modules. STAL ONE is scheduled for construction in Q4 of 2022, and commissioning in Q4 2024. IGNITE commercial plant is planned to undertake commissioning late 2026.

Nickel Exploration

Tobias Maya of PT. Geo Search presented on the UltraGPR [Ground Penetrating Radar] for nickel laterites. Indonesia has the world’s largest resources / reserves of nickel in the form of laterites. These are surface weathering features of tropical soils over ophiolite sequences. GIS remote sensing can identify topography areas suited to the development of significant laterite ore bodies. Steep slopes (18 – 35 deg) tend to reduce ore potential through physical erosion. The high variability of the basal weathering profile can be mapped using GPR, and thereby focus drilling, and providing an interpretive modal for the base of the resource.

Keith Whitchurch, President Director PT. SMG Consultants Indonesia, presented on “Implications of ESG on Mine Planning and Equipment Selection”. The typical reserve / mine plan model is based around NPV [Nett Present Value]. Carbon emissions are rated as Scope 1 (on site emissions), Scope 2 (off site electricity production), Scope 3 is upstream emissions from the supply chain, and also Scope 3 downstream emissions in transporting product to market. Each step for mine production has its own ESG impacts that can be optimized through modelling of the measurable ESG factors. Some shareholders and investors now consider the ESG factors as more important than NPN, and require such modelling, and monitoring.

Agus Superiadi, Expert council association of Indonesian Mining Professionals (PERHAPI). Nickel reserves spread over 371 tenements have increased 5-fold in the last 10 years, and continues to grow. This has created a flood of job opportunities in the exploration, mining, smelting and support sectors. Indonesia has over 100 university courses to supply mine engineers, geologists, geophysists and metallurgists. Despite these numbers there is a critical shortage of skilled and experienced workers, leading to increased hijacking of manpower from established companies. PERHAPI propose a development program for mining industries, universities, professional associations and government to ensure an adequate future workforce.

Simon Bailey, Senior sales specialist, Evident. The new portable XRF analyser can now reliably detect trace amounts of Cobolt (Co), and overcome iron (Fe) and nickel (Ni) interferences. XRF analysis allow for fast decisions in exploration and in mineral processing lines, though full assay results may still be required for JORC reporting of resources & reserves.


Prof. Mohan Yellishetty, associate professor – resources engineering at Monash University delivered the main part of his on-line talk about using artificial soil for revegetation old coal mines in Victoria.

Andrew Digges, Partner Norton Rose Fulbright spoke on decarbonization in the nickel EV battery industry. Average Green House Gas [GHG] emissions for sulphides is about 10 tCO2eq/tonne Ni, Laterite (HPAL) is about 19, and laterite (matte via NPI) is about 59. There are growing international trade regulations to examine the total GHG emission footprint of commodities. Options to reduce GHG emissions largely focus on rationalizing power supply to the smelters.

Muchtazar, Sustainability Manager, Nickel Industries Limited presented on incorporating ESG factors into nickel production. A number of entities now emphasize ESG project risk, along with UN sustainable Development Goals, Carbon footprint and such factors are strongly linked to economic development. Environmental best practices are recognized in Indonesia through “Proper” colour ratings, and various awards.

Rico Syah Alam, President Director, SESNA. Presented on “Solar project as future energy collaboration”. Nickel projects can reduce their CO2 emissions through adding solar panels to their energy generation package. They propose what looks like a BOOT system to provide solar power. Typically, 1 GW needs 1 Ha of land / roof top etc. They have installed some solar power systems in a few Indonesian mines.

Ni Market Analysis.

Nikhil Shah, Principal analyst- Nickel Market CRU Group. His presentation started with outlining recent market development, then looked at EV’s as the biggest contributor to medium term demand growth. Indonesia is critical to supply growth, though some caution as the market may shortly move into surplus for a year or so.

Ni Battery

Joko Umar, CEO & Founder PT. Sinergi Mutual Globalindo spoke on key drivers for nickel investment. Nickel for batteries is a global hot topic that is encouraging for investors. The strength for Indonesia to become a hub for battery development includes its abundant resources and proven track record of extraction and smelting. Weakness included the perceived slow expansion in nickel supply compared relative to the aggressive growth projections for nickel demand. The opportunity includes being seen as a global leader in the new energy market. The threat is market volatility, and potential for other cheaper battery technologies to overtake the Ni battery.

Yunan Fajar Ariyanto, Senior vice president of finance and portfolio management, Indonesia Battery Corporation (IBC). Yunan spoke of the IBC master plan to develop EV & EV battery ecosystem. There are two main investors in JV with SOE’s to mine, refine, and manufacture EV batteries in Indonesia. The government is urging priority towards batteries for 2 wheels vehicles, though foreign investors (with their technology) want to emphasise the production and export batteries for 4 wheeled vehicles

Prof Dr. Rer Nat Evvy Kartini, foundary, National Battery Research Indonesia (NBRI). This organization carries our training & education for future nickel industries, including future battery manufacture in Indonesia. This was an exciting and detailed presentation on battery research and technology at the Research Institute. Battery components of cathode, anode, electrolytic solution, separator and casing are each complex items. For example; Small trace elements in some Indonesian nickel products can inhibit the performance of a battery. A small defect in the separator can lead to spontaneous combustion. 

General discussion.

  • Some general concerns include; the volatile coal price; the nature & timing of a future carbon tax; and talk about restrictions on stainless steel production; smelter waste disposal. 
  • It would seem the nickel smelter industrial parks are significant new growth areas for PLN electricity supply.
  • The supply of sulphuric acid may become a future bottleneck, and at the same time an opportunity for new industries in Indonesia.
  • EV car production bottlenecks, possible recessions and inflation may flatten take up of EV cars to slow down overall market sentiment towards EV cars.
  • The present SOE concept is for long barging of a few percent nickel / bauxite ore to North Kalimantan for processing using hydroelectricity. However, the economic and environmental cost may be better to use local coal power, or to place long power lines from North Kalimantan to the mining areas.
  • Implementing EV battery for two wheelers in Jakarta is not so simple. It will take time. There are now about 40 different commercial 2-wheel EV brands in the Jakarta market, though reliability is not assured. It is expected to take about 3 years before the 2wheel EV models become a more settled market. The master plan for 4 wheeled EV cars is looking at using Pertamina petrol stations as a starting point for electric recharging. A domestic battery industry, or EV bike / car needs to find a way to reduce construction coast before becoming a mass consumer item.
  • It is suggested to encourage exploration for graphite, manganese and other consumables to support the domestic battery industry.