Jakarta – Southeast Sulawesi Governor Ali Mazi has allowed some 500 Chinese workers to work on nickel smelter projects in the province's Konawe regency after previously blocking their entry.
Ali said he had given permission to the Chinese workers after receiving orders from Jakarta. "Regional administrations should not contradict orders from the central government," Ali told Kompas TV on Tuesday.
All of the foreign workers would be subject to health protocol and put in quarantine before they were allowed to work on the project site, Ali said.
"They're working here to support investment in Southeast Sulawesi, so that our economy can recover after the COVID-19 pandemic," he added.
In April, Ali and the Southeast Sulawesi Legislative Council (DPRD) had refused entry to the foreign workers, supposedly due to concerns over COVID-19 transmission.
The Chinese workers were hired by Chinese-backed mining company PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry (VDNI) and PT Obsidian Stainless Steel (OSS) to install 33 pieces of smelter equipment belonging to PT OSS in Southeast Sulawesi.
The companies said they had to bring in the Chinese workers because of a lack of capable local workers and said that, once the equipment was ready, the company would hire 3,000 local workers.
The foreign workers were scheduled to be in Indonesia for six months and return to their home country once the installation was complete.
PT VDNI external affairs manager Indrayanto said the recruitment process for the local workers had already been completed.
"If the 500 foreign workers from China were to be denied entry, then around 3,000 local workers were at risk of losing their jobs," Indrayanto said on May 11.
The foreign workers are expected to come to Konawe gradually in several batches. The first 146 people are scheduled to arrive on June 23. (nal)