Vale Base Metals is committing $10 billion for investment in Indonesia over the next decade to capture demand for metals such as nickel and copper for electric vehicle production, its chief executive said on Thursday.
The investment is part of the company’s plan to spend $25 billion to $30 billion in new projects in Brazil, Canada and Indonesia over the next decade.
It will also further Indonesia’s ambition to be a global hub for the battery materials for EVs and even the vehicles themselves. The country, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has the world’s largest reserves of nickel ore and large amounts of copper and bauxite for aluminum.
Through subsidiary PT Vale Indonesia, Vale Base Metals is developing two high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) plants with China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Co and other partners.
The facilities will produce mixed hydroxide precipitate (MHP) from nickel, a material used to make electric vehicle batteries.
Vale is also partnering with China’s Shandong Xinhai Technology Co. Ltd and a unit of China Baowu Steel Group Corp. Ltd to build a ferro-nickel plant.
These projects would take the refining capacity of Vale Indonesia from around 75,000 metric tons per year to close to 300,000 tons, said Vale Base Metals CEO Deshnee Naidoo.
“If all the plans come right, this will happen in the next five to eight years. This is serious investment and we are committed,” Naidoo said in an interview on the sidelines of Indonesia Sustainability Forum in Jakarta.
In Vale’s Pomalaa project, the company is investing $1 billion for the mines alone and has started initial work for the HPAL facility. The $3.5 billion HPAL plant will be co-developed with Huayou, with US car-maker Ford Motors taking a 17% stake and arranging financing, Naidoo said.
Vale has also started works at the Sorowako HPAL project, which will produce 60,000 tons of nickel in MHP annually.
“We are now looking at partnerships to further go downstream with these projects,” Naido said, adding that she is open to partner with carmakers for Vale’s Indonesian projects following the collaboration with Ford.
Vale is also conducting exploration at a copper mine in Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara which could potentially be comparable to the Grasberg copper mine in eastern Indonesia in size.
Grasberg is the world’s second-biggest copper mine, operated by a unit of Freeport McMoran.
An investment decision for the copper project is expected around 2026.