Hundreds of Indonesian workers staged a protest on Tuesday outside a Chinese-owned nickel plant in Central Sulawesi province, where a furnace explosion killed 13 people and injured dozens more on Sunday.
The workers demanded justice and compensation for the victims, as well as better safety standards and working conditions at the plant, which is part of the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP), a joint venture between Chinese and Indonesian companies.
The protesters also called for an independent investigation into the cause of the blast, which occurred while workers were repairing a furnace at PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel, a subsidiary of IMIP. The explosion was so powerful that it destroyed the furnace and damaged parts of the building.
Among the dead were five Chinese and eight Indonesian workers, while 38 others were hospitalized, some in critical condition. The plant produces nickel pig iron, a raw material for stainless steel.
The blast was the latest in a series of accidents and incidents at Chinese-owned nickel plants in Indonesia, which have raised concerns over environmental and social impacts, as well as labor rights and safety issues.
Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of nickel, a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries and other products. China, the world’s largest consumer of nickel, has invested heavily in the sector, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure and development project.
In April, two workers were killed when a waste disposal site collapsed at another nickel plant in the same industrial park. In January, two workers, including a Chinese national, were killed in riots that involved workers and security guards at a Indonesia-China joint venture in North Morowali regency.
The Indonesian government has vowed to improve the supervision and regulation of the nickel industry, and to ensure that foreign investors comply with the country’s laws and standards. It has also promised to provide assistance and protection to the workers and their families.