MAC: Mines and Communities

French overseas minister's visit to be marked by protests on Kanaky

Published by MAC on 2002-12-15

French overseas minister's visit to be marked by protests

10 December 2002, Noumea (Pacnews)

Local non-governmental organisations and unions in New Caledonia have called for a peaceful march in the capital Noumea next week to coincide with the visit of France's Overseas minister Brigitte Girardin. Girardin is to visit New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna next week as part of a familiarisation tour of two of the three French Pacific territories. But in New Caledonia, a so-called "collective for defence and control" of New Caledonia's natural heritage and resources (Collectif Pour la Defense et la Maitrise du Patrimoine de Prony, CDMPP) has called on supporters and sympathisers to march as a sign of protest against further mining exploration rights granted in July to Canadian nickel giant Inco. The rights are for a nickel site in Prony. Critics of the move said at the time those rights, which come in addition to an existing project in nearby Goro, were tantamount to surrendering the territory's resources.

"We do not accept that our natural resources are being given away to Inco, because we refuse that our mining resources are going to a multinational company," CDMPP said in a release. The collective also called for the implementation of a territorial master plan concerning nickel resources "before any mining rights are granted on a site". They also want a "real impact study" to be carried out by "perfectly neutral specialists" on the existing Goro project. The association also wants a larger share of Goro's capital for New Caledonia, instead of the current 10 per cent. "This 10 per cent will never give us any bearing on the company's decision-making process. It will not force them to pay us any dividends," the release said "With a population of 220,000 and so many resources, we can do much better than that and we must remain the real decision-makers," spokesman Bernard Duparc said.

The SLUA union has also called for a march on Monday next week. The union's secretary general Rosine Streeter said the march was "not to protest against Mrs Girardin's visit, but to let her know there are a lot of problems here." She said she particularly wanted to raise the issue of the recently-introduced social benefit schemes that "made small people pay for the big ones". She also disapproved of the recent arrival on the local market of Filipino workers to be employed on the Goro nickel mining project. Inco have announced a six-month suspension of the Goro project due to unforeseen increases in its costs.

(c) 2002 Asia Pulse Pte Limited

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