An explosion at a nickel plant on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island has killed at least 13 workers and injured dozens of others, some seriously.
Eight victims were Indonesian and five Chinese. The plant is Chinese-funded.
During repair work on a furnace, a flammable liquid ignited and caused nearby oxygen tanks to explode, an initial investigation suggested.
Indonesia is the world’s top producer of nickel, which is used in electric car batteries and stainless steel.
An initial explosion caused several other blasts since there were many other oxygen tanks nearby, said a spokesperson for Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP).
The fire was extinguished hours later.
IMIP is a nickel-focused enterprise, owned by a Chinese company, which produces stainless steel and carbon steel.
The company said it would cover the treatment costs for victims.
“Their faces were burnt, their clothes were all burnt,” a worker who witnessed the explosion told the French news agency AFP.
Acting Morowali district head Rachmansyah Ismail told local media that nearly half of the injured were foreign workers, and at least 17 of them were seriously injured.
As China has focused on growing its low-cost electric vehicle industry, it has invested in nickel plants in Indonesia.
Nickel has therefore become crucial for resource-rich Indonesia’s economy.
Billions of dollars of foreign investment have flowed into the country after the government banned exports of unprocessed ore in 2020 and several mining facilities dramatically increased production in Indonesia’s remote regions.
With the production boom, several fatal accidents have occurred in recent years.
Earlier this year, a Chinese and an Indonesian worker were killed at a nickel plant in the same industrial park – after a riot broke out during a protest by staff.
A few months ago, a fire in the same plant killed one worker and injured six others.
The incidents have increased concern over safety at facilities funded and operated by Chinese companies.