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VOA Asia Weekly: Indonesia’s Critical Minerals Could Be Key to US Green Energy Ambitions

VOA Asia Weekly: Indonesia’s Critical Minerals Could Be Key to US Green Energy Ambitions
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Chinese hospitals overwhelmed with respiratory illnesses. Japan asks US to halt Osprey flights after deadly crash. Construction workers in India finally rescued after mountain tunnel collapse. Thailand's floating basket festival goes digital.

Why Indonesia’s critical mineral resources could be key to U.S. green energy ambitions.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

The truce between Israel and Hamas continued into a seventh day Thursday as the original 4-day truce was extended. On Tuesday, Hamas released two more Thai nationals.

Other former hostages and the Thai foreign minister greeted them at an Israeli medical center. This follows the release of 17 Thai nationals on Sunday through a separate arrangement with Bangkok.

A surge of respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, among Chinese children is flooding Chinese hospitals. The World Health Organization said this is not a new virus, it’s caused by the flu. The Chinese Health Ministry is urging people to wear masks and called on local authorities to focus on preventing the spread of the illnesses.

Japan said Thursday it has asked the U.S. to suspend all non-emergency Osprey flights over its territory after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft carrying eight people crashed off southern Japan during a routine training mission Wednesday, killing at least one. The cause of the crash is unknown. Search and rescue efforts continued Thursday to find the remaining seven crew members.

North Korean state media reported that a North Korean satellite has photographed and sent back detailed images of the White House, the Pentagon, and U.S. aircraft carriers at the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. The existence of these images has not been independently verified.

All 41 construction workers, trapped for more than 17 days in a collapsed mountain tunnel in India, were successfully rescued Tuesday. None of the workers sustained serious injuries. Joyful locals, relatives, and government officials greeted them with celebrations, setting off firecrackers. The officials hung garlands around the workers’ necks while the crowd cheered in relief. U.S. President Joe Biden will not be attending the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 28.

But U.S. diplomats will be there, interested in getting access to the critical mineral exports necessary to transition to green energy. VOA’s Jessica Stone reports.

When you drive a Tesla — the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles — you’re riding on a battery powered by critical minerals.Lithium from Chile. Cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo. And nickel from Indonesia.

Currently, China dominates the market for the extraction and refining of these critical green energy battery components. But in November, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told business leaders that Jakarta wants to become an alternative partner of choice.

"As home to the largest nickel reserves in the world and other critical minerals, Indonesia is in the process of building an EV integrated ecosystem and aims to produce 600 thousand electric cars by 2030.”

Bakrie Group CEO Anindya Novyan Bakrie wants to take advantage of that pledge. He’s pivoting his family’s traditional Indonesian energy mining company into a renewable mining company that can also exploit the growing demand for a non-Chinese critical mineral supply chain.

“We want to focus not only to the East, but to the West. There is not only market but also enthusiasm, capital and technology. So, that's a good thing.”

Indonesian mines are already partnering with Chinese refineries to process their minerals. Bakrie says Jakarta needs support from Washington to compete.

In November, Widodo met with U.S. President Joe Biden to negotiate a critical minerals trade agreement that makes Indonesia eligible for U.S. subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act.

But Southeast Asia expert Greg Poling says there’s a long road ahead to approval.

“Members of both parties on the Hill have been clear that any future agreement with Indonesia or other major mineral supplier has to involve a lot of progress on labor and environmental standards and may have to involve some kind of separation of the supply chain and make sure that Chinese companies working in those countries can't find back doors to sell and qualify for IRA subsidies.”

In the meantime, Jakarta is making progress on reducing Beijing’s dominance in refining critical minerals. In 2020, it banned the export of nickel ore, and Indonesian law requires companies which mine to also refine — domestically.

Jessica Stone, VOA News, Washington.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

And now, a new innovation in Thailand.

Thais have given an eco-friendly digital spin to the 'floating basket' festival. This year children made virtual rafts and sent them floating down digital rivers.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.