JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesia police said on Monday two Chinese nationals had been named as suspects in an investigation into the cause of a nickel smelter fire on Sulawesi island last year that killed 21 people.
The Southeast Asian country, which is the world’s biggest nickel producer, has suffered a number of fatal incidents in recent years in its smelting and processing sector amid a rapid push to build up the sector.
The fire on Dec. 24 broke out at a furnace in a smelter operated by Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS), located in the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP).
Indonesia’s largest nickel hub is owned by China’s Tsingshan and its local partner Bintang Delapan Group, which produce crude metals from nickel, stainless steel and other steel products.
Central Sulawesi police spokesperson Djoko Wienartono identified the two male suspects only by their initials.
One is a furnace supervisor at a different smelter at the industrial park who was on secondment at ITSS, Djoko said. The other suspect is also employed by another company in park, he said.
Djoko said the men were charged with negligence that lead to fire, injuries and death, but did not elaborate on what specific role the suspects are alleged to have had in the blaze.
IMIP did not respond to a request for comment.
Indonesia’s Manpower Ministry is also conducting a separate investigation into the fire. Minister Ida Fauziyah said last month there was a strong indication that a violation of safety procedures led to the fire, without giving details.
(Reporting by Fransiska NangoyEditing by Ed Davies and Lincoln Feast.)