PARU, Indonesia – The death toll from a smelting furnace explosion at a Chinese-owned nickel factory on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island rose to 18 on Tuesday as police ordered the factory to shut down pending an investigation. did.
Nickel is a key component in global electric vehicle battery production.
Central Sulawesi Police Chief Agus Nugroho said Sunday that an explosion occurred while repairing a furnace, killing four Chinese workers and nine Indonesian workers instantly. The next day, three more victims died while being treated at local hospitals.
Dedi Kurniawan, a spokesperson for PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (commonly known as PTIMIP), the parent company of PT Indonesia Aoyama Stainless Steel, said on Tuesday that two more workers had died while in hospital, bringing the number of deaths to 15,000 workers from China. He said there were 18 people in total, including eight. Steel that exploded.
The factory is located in the Bahodopi district of Morowali province.
“We have ordered Indonesia Aoyama Stainless Steel to suspend operations until the investigation is completed,” Police Chief Nugroho said, adding that authorities have set up a team to determine whether the company’s negligence led to the deaths. He added that he had raised it.
Nugroho said the explosion was so powerful that it destroyed the furnace and damaged part of the building’s side wall.
Arnold Firdaus, director of Central Sulawesi’s Human Resources and Immigration Department, said the joint investigation team consists of 18 members, including central government officials in Jakarta and a working group from the Chinese embassy. He said that
PT IMIP said in a statement on Sunday that the reactor was undergoing maintenance and was not operational at the time of the explosion. However, the “slag remaining in the furnace” came into contact with combustible materials, causing the furnace wall to collapse and the remaining steel slag to flow out.
Kurniawan said rescue teams were able to extinguish the fire and evacuate the workers after about four hours of operation.
Approximately 41 employees sustained serious injuries and were being treated at hospitals and the company’s clinic on Tuesday, 11 of them Chinese nationals. Kurniawan said three of the people with severe burns will be taken to China for further treatment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning expressed his condolences to the victims at a press conference on Monday, saying China was “saddened by the casualties and injuries caused by the accident.”
The ministry said it was working closely with Indonesian authorities and had instructed the Chinese embassy in Jakarta to assist in the aftermath, including ensuring treatment for the injured and helping determine the cause of the explosion.
Mao Zedong said a three-member working group from the Chinese embassy in Jakarta arrived at the site on Monday and instructed the company to carry out post-mortem care and “follow-up work”.
This is the third tragedy this year at a Chinese-owned nickel smelting factory in Central Sulawesi province, which boasts Indonesia’s largest nickel reserves.
In April, a nickel waste dump collapsed, killing two dump truck drivers who became engulfed in black sludge.
In January, two workers, including one Chinese, were killed in a riot involving workers from both countries at a joint venture between Indonesia and China in neighboring North Morowali province.
Last year, a Chinese worker repairing a road in PT IMIP’s mining area was killed by a loader truck, and an Indonesian man was burned to death when a furnace at the company’s factory exploded.
Nearly 50% of PT IMIP’s shares are owned by a Chinese holding company and the rest by two Indonesian companies. The smelter began operations in 2013 and is now Indonesia’s largest nickel-based industrial area.
Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Emily Wang Fujiyama in Beijing contributed to this report.