Indonesia banned exports of nickel ore in 2020 in a bid to capture more of the metal’s value. As a result, exports of Indonesian nickel products were worth $30bn in 2022, more than ten times what they were in 2013. Nickel smelters have sprouted around the country, and makers of batteries, in which the metal is a key component, are building factories. On January 17, 2023 a cabinet official said the government was close to sealing deals with the world’s two largest makers of electric vehicles (EVS), Tesla and BYD, to build cars in Indonesia. Flushed with progress, the government is now thinking beyond nickel.
“This success will be continued for other commodities,” said Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s president, in December 2022. He confirmed that an export ban on bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum, was coming in June 2023. The bauxite industry is scrambling to prepare itself for the shock….The government has suggested that a ban on copper exports could be implemented next, with bans on tin and gold exports to follow.
The country’s pulling power in the global nickel market will be hard to replicate, though. Indonesia produces 37% of the world’s nickel. But its bauxite, gold and copper production is less than 5% of the global total…Bauxite smelters are also expensive and harder to build than nickel smelters. Local firms are struggling to raise the capital needed for them, often around 18trn rupiah ($1.2bn)…All the eight bauxite smelters are under construction are Chinese investments. .
Indonesia’s resource nationalism also risks falling foul of global trade rules but Jokowi, Indonesia’s president remains undeterred. “This is what we want to do: be independent, independent, independent,” he said.
Excerpts from Indonesia’s Industrial Policy: Full Metal Jacket, Economist, Jan. 28, 2023