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.

Joko Widodo
Indonesian President
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.

Anindya Novyan Bakrie
Bakrie Group CEO
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.

Greg Poling
CSIS Southeast Asia program Director
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.

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