Baker, White & Case assist Indonesia-China-Ford nickel plant project


Mining companies Vale Indonesia and China’s Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt agreed to partner with Ford Motor to develop a USD4.5 billion smelter plant in Indonesia’s Pomalaa Block to produce lower-cost nickel for electric vehicle batteries.

Baker McKenzie and its Indonesian affiliate, Hadiputranto Hadinoto & Partners (HHP), advised Vale, while White & Case represented Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt. Vale, Huayou and Ford entered into a suite of definitive agreements at a ceremony held on 30 March, featuring Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo.

Norman Bissett, Jakarta-based foreign legal consultant at HHP who led the deal team, said the project will create significant economic benefits for Indonesia, as part of the government’s strategy to further develop a sustainable upstream and downstream mining industry.

“It is an endorsement of Indonesia’s ability to attract significant international investment from world-class companies and a significant stepping stone for Indonesia to be recognised as a high-quality mineral producer for the global electric vehicle ecosystem,” said Bissett.

Paul Tang, Hong Kong-based partner at White & Case who was involved in the deal, added that the project marked the first integrated joint venture between a leading Chinese mining company and a Western automaker.

“It also further develops Huayou’s industry leading ability to deploy the complex high-pressure acid leaching technology, demonstrating the growing integration of mining and metals companies and supply chains with automakers and industrial end users,” said Tang.

The Baker McKenzie and HHP teams advising Vale also comprised Jakarta-based consultant Luke Devine and Brisbane-based Baker McKenzie partner Tanya Denning, with support from Sydney-based associates Tom Henderson, Laura Matson, and Louis Re-Matthews, as well as associates Rakhee Dullabh in Melbourne. The Jakarta-based team comprised associates Tesalonika Barus, Ariel Suryawan and Djuan Sihotang.

Partner John Tivey in Melbourne led the White & Case team assisting Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, with the support of Eugene Man, Sydney-based partner Joanne Emerson Taqi, Singapore-based partners Matthew Osborne and Charles McConnell, Beijing-based partner Guo Bingna, Mebourne-based Tim Power and Aldrin De Zilva, and Brussels-based partner James Killick.

Hong Kong-based local partner James Hsiao, as well as counsel Michael Rodgers in Houston and Rika Rusman in Jakarta also helped with the transaction.

The plant is a part of the national strategic project and is expected to produce up to 120 kilotonnes per annum of mixed hydroxide precipitate, a lower-cost nickel product used in electric vehicle batteries. Expected to be commissioned in 2026, the plant will be built in the Pomalaa district of Indonesia, where Vale operates the Pomalaa Block mine.

Currently, the project’s early site preparations have already started, and full construction is expected to start this year. The collaboration will deliver materials essential for the auto industry and support Ford’s plan to deliver a 2 million electric vehicle production run rate by the end of 2026 and further scale over time.