18 Dead, Dozens Injured in Nickel Plant Explosion

Nickel is a key component in global battery production for electric vehicles.

Kristen Kazarian, Managing Editor

December 27, 2023

1 Min Read
Nickel plant explosion kills 18, injures dozens
The explosion happened during maintenance on a smelting furnace. Image courtesy of koyu / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The death toll following the explosion of a smelting furnace at a Chinese-owned nickel processing plant on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island rose to 18 on Tuesday, as police ordered the plant to stop operations until an investigation is completed. Another 46 were injured in the explosion that occurred on Sunday.

The accident occurred at about 5:30 a.m. local time at the plant owned by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel in the Morowali Industrial Park in Central Sulawesi province, a spokesperson for the complex said in a statement.

At first, 13 fatalities were confirmed, consisting of nine Indonesian workers and four workers from China, a spokesperson said in a statement. That rose to 18 as of Tuesday.

The 46 others injured were mostly due to exposure to hot steam.

An initial investigation showed the explosion happened during repair work on a furnace when a flammable liquid ignited and the subsequent blast caused nearby oxygen tanks to explode as well, the official said.

The fire was extinguished on Sunday morning, according to the statement.

The island of Sulawesi is a hub for the mineral-rich country’s production of nickel, a base metal used for electric vehicle batteries and stainless steel.

The blast was the latest in a series of fatalities at nickel smelting plants in Indonesia that are part of China’s ambitious transnational development program known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

In January, two workers including a Chinese national were killed at a nickel smelting plant in the same industrial park after a riot broke out during a protest over safety conditions and pay. And in June, a fire at the same plant left one dead and six others injured, The Guardian reported.

About the Author(s)

Kristen Kazarian

Managing Editor

Kristen Kazarian has been a writer and editor for more than three decades. She has worked at several consumer magazines and B2B publications in the fields of food and beverage, packaging, processing, women's interest, local news, health and nutrition, fashion and beauty, automotive, and computers.

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