Chinese Nationals Named Suspects in Deadly Sulawesi Nickel Plant Explosion

PALU, Indonesia – Indonesian authorities have identified two Chinese nationals as suspects in a tragic explosion at a nickel plant that took the lives of 21 workers and left many others injured on Sulawesi Island. The blast occurred at PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel, or PT ITSS, a Chinese-owned facility, during a furnace repair operation.

Four Chinese and nine Indonesian workers perished immediately in the explosion, with an additional eight succumbing to their injuries in the following days. This incident has brought to light safety concerns and raised questions about the management of industrial facilities in the region.

According to police spokesperson Djoko Wienartono, the furnace was under maintenance and not in operation at the time of the explosion. The blast was triggered by a fire from residual slag in the furnace, which flowed out and came into contact with nearby oxygen cylinders used for welding.

As a result of their investigation, the police have designated two Chinese nationals, identified only by their initials, ZG and Z, as suspects. ZG, the furnace supervisor, and Z, his vice supervisor, are said to have violated the company’s operational standard. The police plan to bring criminal charges against the suspects for negligence leading to death or serious injury, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conviction.

The explosion at PT ITSS is not an isolated incident. Similar fatal incidents have occurred at other nickel smelting plants in Indonesia, which are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This trend has raised concerns about safety regulations and enforcement in industrial areas that are part of this ambitious development program.

Nickel is a crucial component of electric vehicle batteries, and Indonesia, with its large nickel reserves, has become a key player in the global nickel market. The growing demand for nickel has led to an increase in industrial activity in the region, raising questions about the safety and environmental impact of these operations.

This tragic incident serves as a reminder of the importance of strict safety protocols and thorough maintenance procedures in industrial facilities. The Indonesian government and relevant authorities will likely face pressure to review and enforce regulations to ensure the safety of workers and the surrounding communities in industrial areas.