US carmaker Ford, Brazil’s Vale, China’s Tsingshan and Hong Kong’s Jardine Matheson are invested in Indonesian nickel projects responsible for the clearance of large swaths of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests. New data compiled by environmental group Mighty Earth and its partner Brown Brothers Energy and Environment shows that at least 76,301 hectares — an area the size of New York City — of tropical forests has been cleared within 329 nickel concessions. Roughly 23,000ha of that — or 30 per cent — has been cut down since 2019, as demand for electric cars and the nickel batteries that power them has increased.
With its vast nickel reserves, Indonesia hopes to become a global powerhouse in the electric vehicle supply chain. US Geological Survey data shows that last year it generated almost half of the world’s nickel.
Environmental groups and analysts have warned Indonesia could repeat mistakes made in the palm oil industry, associated with rampant deforestation, unless more steps are taken to protect forests from nickel mining. “We are risking a palm oil 2.0 situation with deforestation for nickel mining,” said Mighty Earth senior director Amanda Hurowitz, referring to the havoc wrought to the environment by intensive farming of palm oil, a key ingredient in everything from deodorant to pizza.