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Indonesian unions demand investigation of ITSS furnace explosion

3 January, 2024A huge explosion of the nickel smelter furnace at PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) killed 18 mine workers and wounded 41 workers on 29 December, last year.

The company is based at the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP), in Central Sulawesi. This giant industrial complex has the capacity to produce 3.0Mt nickel pig iron and 3.0Mt stainless steel per annum. It reportedly employed 28,500 workers and covered 3,000 hectares of land. 

The initial investigation shows that the explosion occurred while workers were repairing the smelter furnace. The leakage at the bottom of the furnace and the presence of oxygen tanks used for repairs caused the explosion.

Eleven Indonesian trade unions and NGOs, including IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate SPN, issued a press statement condemning ITSS for its negligence which caused the industrial accident. 

They pointed out that the smelter furnace must be shut down before repairs are carried out, the pursuit of high productivity by the company and bypassing safety protocols is the cause of this preventable tragedy.

“We call for a thorough investigation against ITSS for deliberately subjecting workers to dangerous working conditions. The company must take full responsibility for the accident and provide compensations to workers and their families. All companies located in IMIP must engage trade unions in improving safety standards, both ITSS and IMIP must stop intimidating workers who document workplace accidents.” Said Iwan Kusmawan, chairperson of IndustriALL Indonesia Council and SPN's head of international department.
IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie sent a solidarity letter to Indonesian affiliates in the mining sectors extending leadership's heartfelt condolences to the families of workers who died in the accident and wishing the wounded workers a speedy recovery.
“IndustriALL is ready to cooperate with Indonesian affiliates to ensure human rights due diligence in the battery supply chain. All multinational companies must be held accountable for unsafe and unhealthy practice in their supply chain. We must put workers’ lives before profit,” added Atle Høie.

Photo: SPN