China’s Weiming Group, which makes equipment to treat solid waste, has signed a deal to invest in a $400 million project to produce nickel matte in Indonesia, becoming the latest Chinese firm to enter the Southeast Asia country’s battery supply chain.
Weiming said in a statement that the project, in which it will partner with a company called Indigo, would produce 40,000 tonnes per year of nickel matte, an intermediate product that can be used to make battery-grade nickel for electric vehicles (EVs) or stainless steel.
Indonesia, which banned exports of nickel ore from the start of 2020 to boost its domestic processing industry, is home to several Chinese-backed projects designed to produce nickel chemicals for EV batteries.
Weiming said the Indigo tie-up, described as a framework agreement, would also focus on the development of low-grade nickel ore and tailings utilisation technology. Mine tailings are the crushed remnants of ore.
“The company plans to increase investment in the new energy industry chain,” and will draw on its experience in manufacturing environmentally friendly equipment, its statement, issued on Wednesday, said.
Weiming is based in Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province, the same city that is home to top global nickel producer Tsingshan Holding Group.
Tsingshan has several projects in Indonesia and in March roiled nickel markets by announcing plans to make matte at scale and sell it to companies making battery materials.
In late June, Weiming signed a broad strategic cooperation agreement with Tsingshan that envisaged cooperation in areas including waste battery recycling and treatment of mine tailings.
It was not immediately clear if Indigo had any affiliation with Tsingshan.
(By Tom Daly; Editing by Barbara Lewis)