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Indonesian island fights to curb impact of toxic nickel mine

Ayu Purwaningsih in Halmahera, Indonesia
July 6, 2024

The remote island of Halmahera is at the center of Indonesia's nickel industry. Local communities are struggling to feed themselves after as the massive mine pollutes water, cuts fish stocks and degrades land.


Nickel mining on Indonesia's remote Halmahera island is threatening food production for the Indigenous Sawai tribe. The mining pollutes the water, degrades the land and kills off fish stocks.

Nickel is a critical component for lithium-ion batteries used in renewable energy technology and EVs. Global demand has brought fundamental changes to people's lives here.

The mining site at Weda Bay Industrial Park has damaged coral reefs along the coastline. Many locals have been forced to sell their land due to financial pressure.

And things are likely to get worse. The mining site is set to grow threefold in the coming years, with international companies looking to invest.

"The nickel will eventually run out," said local legislator Sakir Ahmad. "Then we have to develop all the sites to improve people's quality of life. So, using the profit from nickel, there must be a bigger budget for the education sector. Children in our area must receive a better education."

Correction, July 2, 2024: This video has the incorrect spelling of the name of activist Mardani Legayelol. DW apologizes for the error.