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Indonesian miner eyes nickel assets as it shifts focus from coal

29th April 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Indonesian coal company PT Harum Energy is looking to buy more nickel mines as it ceases further investment in fossil fuels in order to prepare for the energy transition.

The miner plans to avoid further spending in its coal operations beyond the level required to sustain current output, president director Ray Antonio Gunara said in an interview on Friday.

The firm has bought stakes in three nickel processing plants, and is weighing an initial public offering of the unit once the market improves. It expects nickel to account for half of its revenues by the end of this year, from just over 10% in 2023.

“The public market doesn’t appreciate the business of coal mining” whose valuations remain poor despite the sector’s high profits, Gunara said. “We won’t be spending our money expanding production capacity.”

Indonesia now produces more than half the world’s nickel — a metal that’s needed for high-performance in EVs — following a $30 billion wave of investment by Chinese companies into smelters. Still, local conglomerates hoping to access the sector have been held back by a shortage of large deposits and high valuations.

“We’re always looking for assets to acquire but there are challenges,” Gunara said. “Nickel mines are just getting more expensive.”

Other Indonesian coal miners have been using their profits to shift to cleaner supply chains. PT Adaro Energy Indonesia is building an aluminum smelter in Kalimantan, while PT Indika Energy and PT United Tractors bought stakes in non-coal mining assets last year.

Harum’s size meant the miner was able to beat the competition in its pivot to the green economy, Gunara said. Last week the firm announced a partnership with China’s Tsingshan Holding Group, the world’s top producer of stainless steel and nickel that dominates the Indonesian industry. Under the deal, the conglomerate will own up to a 49% stake in Harum’s nickel unit in return for capital and technical expertise.

However, teaming up with a Chinese company could hinder Harum’s potential access to Western markets. American and European car makers are seeking nickel supplies free from Chinese influence, in order to benefit from subsidies under Joe Biden’s flagship climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The intention is to become IRA compliant,” Gunara said. “We haven’t fully figured out the right path for us to get to that point.”

Edited by Bloomberg

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