According to Nikkei Asia on September 14, Brazilian mining giant Vale in Indonesia is joining on three nickel refining projects totaling $8.6 billion with Chinese companies.

Those firms include battery materials manufacturer Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt; Tisco, a unit of state-backed stainless steel giant China Baowu Steel Group; and top nickel pig iron producer Shandong Xinhai Technology.

Among them, two projects with Huayou produce electric vehicles (EV) battery materials. Meanwhile, the third project, a joint development with Tisco and Xinhai , provides feedstock for the stainless steel industry.

The outlet noted that Indonesia is the world’s biggest manufacturer of nickel, a major ingredient in EV battery making. The government is trying to attract foreign investment into the production of batteries and electric vehicles to turn Indonesia into a leading player in the EV industry globally.  

Nikkei Asia reported that Vale Indonesia signed a framework agreement for its first project with Huayou in April. This comprises a plan to develop a nickel smelter with high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) technology in Pomalaa in Southeast Sulawesi province. 

The project is planned to begin later this year and be completed in 2025, with an estimated cost of around $4.5 billion and an annual production capacity of 120,000 tonnes of nickel in mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP), an intermediate product for EV battery materials.

In July, U.S.-based automaker Ford Motor signed with Vale Indonesia and Huayou a nonbinding memorandum of cooperation for this project. Bernardus Irmanto, chief financial officer and director at Vale Indonesia, said that if the terms are finalized, China’s Huayou will own 53% of the Pomalaa plant, Vale Indonesia 30%, and Ford 17%.

Reuters reported that Vale Indonesia signed its second project last week with Tisco and Xinhai. It’s a joint development of an estimated $2.3 billion ferronickel plant in Bahodopi, Central Sulawesi province, with the same construction schedule as the first project.

The plant’s estimated annual production capacity will be 73,000 tonnes of ferronickel, an intermediate product for stainless steel. 

Irmanto also said Vale Indonesia would likely convert this facility later to serve the battery industry.

The third and also its latest project which was signed on September 13 is Vale Indonesia and Huayou’s second HPAL plant in Indonesia. The plant is located near the company’s major operations in Sorowako, South Sulawesi province. 

The new plant’s estimated cost will be around $1.8 billion, with an annual production capacity of around 60,000 tonnes of nickel in MHP. The construction is expected to start next year and be completed in 2026.

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