German chemical giant BASF withdraws from Indonesian refinery project

German chemical giant BASF has pulled out of a multi-billion-dollar project to refine nickel on the Indonesian island of Halmahera. A small victory for the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa, put at serious risk of extermination by mining activities

Just a few months ago, it was reported that the German chemical company BASF planned to collaborate with Eramet on building a refinery on Indonesia’s Halmahera Island. Now, it appears they are backing out.

The $2.6 billion project, designed to refine nickel and cobalt extracted from the Weda Bay Nickel (WBN), threatened to destroy the forest home of hundreds of uncontacted Hongana Manyawa indigenous people living in the area.

BASF’s decision to withdraw comes after a campaign by Survival International revealed that much of the area where WBN operates (co-owned by the French company Eramet) is the territory of the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa, who are at severe risk of extermination from the mining activities.

A recent video shows a Hongana Manyawa family arriving at a miners’ camp to ask for food. The destruction of their forest has deprived them of their means of subsistence. These images prompted the President of the Indonesian Senate to intervene and call for the protection of the tribe’s land.

Although the refinery project has been abandoned, Weda Bay Nickel – the world’s largest nickel mine – continues to operate, with the extracted nickel destined for electric vehicle batteries.

Tesla has long-standing multi-billion dollar agreements with Indonesian nickel and cobalt suppliers and has recently announced that it is “studying the need to establish a no-go zone to protect uncontacted peoples“.

Meanwhile, BASF’s withdrawal means that they, at least, will not be complicit in the destruction of the Hongana Manyawa. However, many other companies continue to ravage the forest.

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