The Dark Side of Green: Indonesia's 'Tainted City' Is Killing Workers

Marwan Mohamad, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The green revolutionaries want to tell us that their solutions are good for the environment, and, of course, they include those trendy electric vehicles. To hear the Biden administration tell it, buying an electric vehicle works like magic to solve all the world’s problems.

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But there’s a dark side to the green revolution that’s supposed to save the planet. Nowhere is the danger of the relentless push for EVs more evident than in an industrial village in Indonesia. The people who work at the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) call it a “tainted city” because of the danger and pollution involved in mining nickel at such a rapid pace to meet the demand for EVs.

“A decade ago, Labota was a fishing village; today it’s been subsumed into a sprawling city centered around IMIP, a $15 billion, 3,000-hectare [7,413-acre] industrial complex containing steelworks, coal power plants, and manganese processors, with its own airport and seaport,” reports Wired. “Built as a joint venture between Chinese and Indonesian industrial companies, it is at the heart of Indonesia’s push to supply the electric vehicle market with nickel, a core component of batteries.”

The rush to mine all the nickel that manufacturers can get their hands on — at the hands of car companies eager to please the greens and governments chomping at the bit to get rid of fossil fuel use — takes a heavy toll. The consequences of this drive toward an EV future are genuine environmental damage and an alarming human cost.

A once-beautiful island now features a backdrop of plumes of brown smoke, while pollution mars the air and water in and around the island. The forests and fishing areas are worthless, and the communities on the island can’t keep up with the crumbling infrastructure and economic damage the influx of workers has brought.

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Moreover, those workers are getting sick and injured and are dying. Conditions at IMIP have led to epidemics of “respiratory problems, sickness, and eye injuries” among residents, as Wired reports. Over half the patients at one local health center come in with breathing difficulties, while a considerable number suffer damage to their eyes.

Related: It’s Now Cheaper to Drive 100 Miles in a Gas-Powered Car Than in an EV

Wired spoke to one 18-year-old who deals with ongoing breathing issues but continues to work for a mere $15.75 a day. “Sometimes it’s hard to breathe,” he told the reporter. “I’m concerned, but I can’t do anything.” The wife of one employee said that she and her husband want to leave the island “before we have to be carried out.”

Other workers have perished under unsafe conditions such as not wearing safety helmets and working with inadequate gear and lighting. One advocate told Wired that the “massive exploitation of workers, the environment, and residents is a grave crime against human rights.” It’s not shocking that many of the companies on the island are Chinese.

On top of the injuries, illnesses, and deaths of workers, residents are suffering as well. The nickel-mining operations have destroyed nearly 22,000 acres of the rainforest — remember how the greens love to lament the destruction of the rainforest in other areas? — leaving the island susceptible to flash floods that destroy homes by the dozen.

“The face of this place has been utterly transformed,” a non-profit researcher said. “It’s become unrecognizable. It’s like a city was dropped in the middle of paradise.”

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The industrial damage has destroyed the fishing economy in the area, which was once the bread and butter for so many. Waste dumping and accidents turn the water surrounding the island black.

“Sometimes we catch only enough to feed ourselves,” one fisherman said. “Soon, we won’t even have that.”

All of this destruction and human cost fly in the face of the sunny rhetoric from the greens on how EVs will save us all from certain doom.

“Labor exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation are undermining the socio-ecological transformation promised by electric vehicles,” Pius Ginting, coauthor of a report by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation think tank on the industry, told Wired. “The public needs to know the reality of what’s happening.”

The next time someone tries to virtue signal to you about how great EVs are, ask him if he knows about IMIP. The left can’t justify the human and environmental cost of this push to mine so much nickel from the earth — but that doesn’t matter to the irrational climate alarmists.

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