Protesters’ Rage, Blaze Claim Nickel Miner’s Facilities in Morowali

Around 500 protesters burned down buildings and other facilities belonging to Vale Indonesia in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, on Monday in another violent dispute between local residents and companies.

Police said the situation was under control and slowly getting back to normal.

The protesters had staged protests for weeks in front of the district’s council before moving to the company’s camp on Monday.

They asked Vale, the country’s largest nickel miner, to implement a working contract it had possessed since 1968 to build a nickel mine and processing site in the area so that locals would benefit from the operations.

Since the company had not responded, the protesters proceeded to destroy and burn the camp’s buildings and facilities.

No injuries were reported.

Morowali district head Anwar Hafid said the fire had allegedly been set by disgruntled residents regarding the company’s plan to build a nickel smelter in the area.

“Residents have staged protests for a few weeks, demanding the company quickly implement its plan as stipulated in the contract. However, the company has never implemented [the plan],” Anwar said.

He also said that he supported the residents’ demands, even though he regretted people’s way of expressing it.

Nico Kanter, president director and chief executive of Vale, said the company respected the rights of the people in expressing their minds.

“We are very concerned about the arson of our camp,” he said.

Nico added that the company would file a report on the incident to the local authorities for further investigation.

Central Sulawesi Police said they were investigating the attacks amid rumors that there were people masterminding the riot.

Local officials said there were competing claims from other companies over areas handed over to Vale. Some have suggested the rival companies could be behind the protests.

Violent disputes and clashes between companies and local residents over land claims have erupted in recent months in several locations across the archipelago, with some clashes resulting in deaths.

In the same district just several months ago, residents attacked and burned down a rig belonging to state oil and gas company Pertamina and oil firm Medco Tomori.

Similar incidents also occurred in Mesuji, Lampung; Bima, West Nusa Tenggara; and at Freeport McMoran’s mine in Papua.

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