China's CNGR, Singapore-based firm to make nickel matte in Indonesia as battery demand grows

The joint venture in Indonesia will produce nickel matte, which is used to make chemicals for electric car batteries.
The joint venture in Indonesia will produce nickel matte, which is used to make chemicals for electric car batteries.PHOTO: REUTERS

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - Chinese battery material maker CNGR Advanced Material and Singapore-based Rigqueza International have set up a joint venture in Indonesia to produce nickel matte, used to make chemicals for electric car batteries.

CNGR last month agreed to buy nickel matte - an intermediate product that can be processed into battery-grade nickel - from Tsingshan Holding Group. The surprise deal sent nickel prices plunging as the market sensed concerns of tight nickel supply could be overdone.

Now, Changsha-based CNGR is looking to produce matte itself in a US$243 million (S$325.5 million) smelting project in Tsingshan's industrial park on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The project will produce 30,000 tonnes of nickel matte a year, CNGR said on Thursday (April 8).

"Demand for ternary material nickel is accelerating," CNGR said in a filing with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, noting a trend towards high-content nickel batteries with a longer lifespan.

CNGR will hold a 70 per cent stake in the joint venture, to be called ZhongTsing New Energy, according to the filing, with Rigqueza holding the remaining 30 per cent. Rigqueza is registered in Singapore, but it was not immediately clear if the company is related to Tsingshan.

The first US$81 million phase is set to produce 10,000 tonnes of matte on a nickel content basis, said the filing, which did not provide a targeted start-up date.

The venture is the latest in a number of Chinese-backed projects in top nickel miner Indonesia, which banned nickel ore exports from the start of 2020 as it sought to establish a fully integrated battery industry at home.

Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology plans to invest US$5 billion in a lithium battery plant in the South-east Asian country, Indonesian government officials have said.