Rocks unearthed here [in Indonesia] contain traces of nickel, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. Extracting it, refining it and readying it for export is a gargantuan task.
More than $1 billion has been sunk into the processing facility, the first in Indonesia to use an acid-leaching technology to convert low-grade laterite nickel ore — which the country has in abundance — into a higher-grade material suitable for batteries. Foreign investors and lenders cite the project as evidence of their commitment to fighting climate change.
But the sprawling facility, bordered on one side by forest and on the other by blue seas, faces a major challenge: what to do with the roughly 4 million metric tons of toxic waste produced every year — enough, approximately, to fill 1,667 Olympic-size swimming pools.