Nickel smelter furnace fire kills 13, injures 46 in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) said 13 workers were killed and 46 injured on December 24 in a fire at its nickel smelter furnace on Sulawesi island.

In a statement, Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) said the fire started when workers repaired the furnace and installed plates at 5:30 a.m. that day (2130 GMT, December 23).

The fire, which was extinguished at 9:10 a.m. local time, killed nine Indonesian workers and four Chinese workers, it added.

IMIP further added that the furnace was shut down the day before to prepare for maintenance, but excess iron slag flowed from the furnace during that process.

In a statement, IMIP spokesperson Dedy Kurniawan said, “The furnace walls then collapsed, and the remaining iron slag flowed out, causing a fire and resulting in some workers at the location suffering injuries and even fatalities.”

The workers were injured by hot steam from stainless steel slag and the burning fire, Dedy added, noting that there was no explosion or oxygen canister on site.

IMIP is a nickel-focused industrial park owned by China’s Tsingshan and its local partner Bintang Delapan Group, which produces stainless steel and carbon steel.

ITSS is one of the tenants at the industrial park, IMIP said, adding it will coordinate with related parties to investigate the incident and cover all treatment costs for victims.

Nickel has become increasingly crucial for resource-rich Indonesia, the world’s biggest nickel producer.

While keen to develop the sector, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for improvements in safety and pledged to monitor environmental standards.

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