Menu Menu

Climate NGOs plea for Tesla to pull out of Indonesia nickel drive

Dozens of environmental NGOs have sent a joint letter to Elon Musk pleading with the Tesla chief to pull out of Indonesia’s nickel drive. Citing concerns around water pollution and deforestation, the cohort claim this isn’t the way to accelerate EV adoption.

As we approach 2030 climate deadlines, the automobile industry is changing drastically each year.

The common consensus is that we need electric vehicles (EVs) to succeed petrol cars, and quickly. Determining exactly where the raw materials should come from, mind, is something of an afterthought and receives far less coverage in the mainstream media.

Global automakers are slated to spend more than $515bn in the next eight years to make the essential transition, and a handful of EV proprietors will rake in the readies. Case in point is Tesla, whose sales for Q1 of this year are up 256% on 2019.

As public demand increases for battery powered cars, Tesla is determined to be the chief supplier and is therefore keen on up-scaling its stockpile of rare Earth minerals like nickel and cobalt.

Speaking of which, Indonesia is sitting on possibly the world’s largest untapped reserves of nickel, and it’s keen to cash in itself.

In preparation of the upcoming EV boom, its government outlawed the international export of unprocessed ore in 2020, meaning investors would have to join them on home turf if they wanted to dip into the supply.

News broke back in May that Tesla had reportedly made a verbal agreement to build an EV factory in the South Asian country – after Musk, during a Q2 earnings meeting, pleaded with mining companies to increase their nickel production.

Fast forward to today, and environmental NGOs including Friends of the Earth and Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia have sent a joint letter to Musk directly opposing the move and requesting that he pull Tesla from all negotiations.

But wait, more EVs is strictly good news, right?

That depends largely on the way in which rare Earth minerals are mined for the batteries, and Indonesia doesn’t exactly have the best track record, ecologically speaking.

Loose regulations have previously seen Indonesia’s mining waste seep into waterways, pollute beaches, and even be deliberately dumped in the ocean – see recent studies from AEER and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – while unsafe labour concerns still exist.

The NGO letter also pointed out that nickel mining is eating up large parts of the region’s wildland and heightening the risk of deforestation. The overarching sentiment is that removing noxious fumes from petrol cars is no good if we’re merely harming the planet in other ways.

Neither Tesla nor the Indonesian government has responded to requests for comment, but it will do their respective PR no favours if these trepidations continue to go ignored.

Musk specified in June that nickel up-scaling must be handled ‘in an environmentally sensitive way.’ Let’s hope he truly meant that.


Thred Newsletter!

Sign up to our planet-positive newsletter