Thousands evacuated after floods hit Indonesia’s nickel region

Pomalaa, Southeast Sulawesi. (Image courtesy of Michael Thirnbeck via Flickr)

Indonesian authorities warned of more flash floods and landslides after days of flooding forced the evacuation of more than 5,000 people from Central and Southeast Sulawesi, the nation’s main nickel ore producing region.

Heavy rainfall may continue to lash Southeast Sulawesi and many other provinces until Saturday, the Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency said on its website. Authorities evacuated 5,703 people until Tuesday after hundreds of hectares of paddy and corn fields were inundated and several houses damaged, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Sulawesi island is home to several nickel mines operated by PT Vale Indonesia, PT Aneka Tambang and the Indonesian Morowali Industrial Park, which houses many nickel ore processing plants. A bridge connecting the capital of Morowali regency to the industrial park was washed away in the flooding but production at the complex was unaffected, Antara news agency reported.

There were no reports of any disruptions to operations at the mines or smelters in Sulawesi, Yunus Saefulhak, director of minerals at the Energy Ministry said in a text message on Thursday.

Indonesian miners have been ramping up exports of nickel ore after the government eased a ban on shipments in 2017. The Southeast Asian country was the world’s top supplier of the ore, used to make stainless steel, before it halted shipments in 2014 to develop its smelting industry.

(By Tassia Sipahutar and Eko Listiyorini)

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