Senior executive at Aneka Tambang Tbk PT
- Indonesia Battery Holding’s establishment and supply chain strategy
- Nickel processing infrastructure needs and key development challenges
- Smelter CAPEX and downstream build-out costs
I understand Antam, PLN and Pertamina are combining to set up the Indonesia Battery Holding as a joint venture between the state-owned enterprises. How will that impact the industry and Indonesia’s ability to set up a downstream nickel-based electric vehicle battery value chain or capacity?
The development of a nickel downstream capacity for EV batteries seems mostly driven by the government. Do you expect the private sector to have any involvement, or for the government to open this initiative up to the private sector?
I understand from what the ministry has said in the public sphere that the Indonesia Battery Holding company will likely require foreign partners to help develop the EV battery manufacturing supply chain, especially on the latter part of that value chain. What are your thoughts on companies that could be considered good partners, such as LG Chem or Catl or Panasonic as major battery companies in Asia?
Battery manufacturers in Asia are largely concentrated in Korea, Japan and China. In assessing Indonesia Battery Holding as a reflection of the government, which partners within China, Japan or Korea do you think it would prefer?
Do you think the criteria Indonesia uses to pick battery chain partners comes down to cost, that whoever provides the best price is likely to get the business from Indonesia?
Do you think foreign companies helping Indonesia build out the EV battery supply chain have sufficient incentive? How do we think about this? If LG Chem or Panasonic helped Indonesia build out its own EV battery supply chain, would it not reduce its own business as a result? Why would foreign battery companies help? What compensation does it get out of this venture?
The ore itself is now banned for export, but what nickel products do come out of Indonesia? What percentage of that goes to EVs, or things related to EVs, now or in the future?
What percentage of the refined nickel product goes to China specifically, and in particular Chinese EV manufacturers, or related components manufacturers? I believe China is the big importer of nickel sulphate, and the expectation is they will continue to do so.
My understanding is there’s a 50,000-tonne-per-year project in Indonesia owned by China’s Tsingshan. Are projects like that supplying directly to Chinese EV companies? Do Chinese EV companies procure nickel from Indonesian manufacturers directly? How does that work?
Do you think there’s any existing or potential long-term contracts with the end users, so the big electric vehicle companies, such as Tesla or Nio or any of the electric vehicle companies? Do nickel manufactures in Indonesia typically have long-term contracts? If not, do you expect them to do that, given the way the country is going?
What is your outlook on the supply of nickel iron ore and nickel pig iron coming out of Indonesia, especially given the export restrictions and Indonesia’s desire to keep lower-value products within Indonesia for future processing?
You outlined that, previously, there was a lot of excess downstream capacity with all the various HPAL [high-pressure acid leaching] smelters that came up. My understanding is there has also been a recent increase in upstream projects, such as Weda Bay. How has that impacted the demand-supply mechanics vs the downstream capacity? Are these upstream projects that are coming up absorbing all the processing capacity and demand? How do we think about that?
With the increase in nickel mining projects supplying to the downstream, given the increase in upstream, do you expect the price paid to miners to change at all? Will it reduce given the increase in raw nickel ore supply, or is the smelter capacity growing?
What products or cathodes do you think Indonesia aims to produce due to its desire to build a high-nickel EV battery value chain? My understanding is electric vehicles use NCM [nickel, cobalt and manganese] and NCA [nickel cobalt aluminium] battery chemistries a lot, as one of the potential chemistries it can use. I believe Tesla uses NCA.
Since Indonesia wants to produce all the way through to EV batteries itself, what infrastructure would you say Indonesia needs to build that value chain?
Given all the infrastructure needs you’ve outlined, such as sulphuric acid plants, cathode plants and various other items, what are the key development risks that could delay or otherwise get in the way of building out that battery supply chain?
Is there anything particularly complex about the tailings disposal for value-added products for nickel? Especially since we’re dealing with the use of acid, and so on, is it more complex than tailings management for regular upstream mining projects?
Do you think the government will, at the very least, fast-track the approvals for tailings proposals? After all, this is a government initiative. Do you think that’ll be easier for tailings facilities to be fast tracked?
Is there any reason why an operator would choose deep-sea tailings for a nickel downstream plant over land-based tailings?
You mentioned there will be a need for a significant sulphuric acid capacity to help with the nickel processing. My understanding is that it will be quite reagent-heavy. For example, you need sulphur, limestone and so on. When you have to handle all those moving parts, does it make it more complicated in the overall production process? Do you think that could lead to difficulties in building out the supply chain?
You mentioned that HPAL is more sensitive to the characteristics of the nickel ore itself, and that’s why HPAL has had a spotty track record. Could you outline the ore characteristics that tend to give HPAL smelters difficulties?
The mining industry ministry is considering HPAL and RKEF [rotary kiln electric furnace] smelter projects that are valued at USD 2-3bn. It seems like the HPAL smelters have issues. Do you think there should be a focus on RKEF smelters as a result?
Is there a big difference in the smelter cost between RKEF and HPAL smelters?
Given the reliance on RKEF and HPAL smelters to help facilitate this battery supply chain, where is Indonesia likely to source this smelter capacity from? Does it have the domestic capacity to support that development or will it have to rely on partners more locally in China, Korea, Japan, and so on?
How long do you think a move to build out eventual cathode production could take? Do you expect this to happen in the next 3-5 years, or will it be a longer-term roll-out?
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