MAC: Mines and Communities

News on Inco's Goro Nickel Project

Published by MAC on 2002-03-07

Inco draws fire for French-only data

Globe and Mail
By Allan Robinson, Mining Reporter

Saturday, March 9, 2002

Inco Ltd. has made volumes of technical data available on its Web site for its $1.4-billion (U.S.) Goro nickel and cobalt project in New Caledonia, but in the French language only.

As a result, an environmental group concerned about the potential impact of the tropical island project in the French Overseas Territory in the South Pacific, said its experts were unable to evaluate the large amount of highly technical material before a one-month deadline for comments had passed.

Mining Watch Canada in Ottawa had lined up a group of scientists to provide an independent review of Inco's environmental impact assessment, but the experts assembled in Canada, United States and Australia are not bilingual and could not do the work, said Catherine Coumans, research co-ordinator for Mining Watch.

Mining Watch is now putting together a French-speaking group to provide a response to the project, which could affect coral reefs in the area.

However, the deadline for the responses expired on March 6.

Toronto-based Inco has refused to provide an English language translation of the technical reports.

Early this year, the French government submitted a proposal seeking World Heritage status for the entire reef surrounding New Caledonia, Ms. Coumans said.

"It's in French only because it's a French country and it's the language the assessment and the consultation is being made in," said Alan Stubbs, vice-president of public and government affairs.

Inco will not be making the report available in English to mining analysts or to its bankers, he said.

Meanwhile, heavy equipment to construct the mine and related infrastructure continues to be shipped to the island, Ms. Coumans said.

Environmentalists have asked for a delay in the project to respond to Inco's proposals.

The one-month comment period is regulated by New Caledonian rules, Mr. Stubbs said.

Environmentalists have complained that Inco has not done enough to consult the local communities, the indigenous Kanak people, about the project.

Local chiefs, who are also representatives of the Sénat Coutumier or customary senate, have also asked for additional environmental studies and social impact assessments of the project. The senate consists of individuals who represent the clan chiefs from the different tribal regions.

But Mining Watch notes that in October, New Caledonian representatives from the senate and local environmental groups met with Inco executives and government officials of Natural Resources Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Protest letter on Inco's Goro Nickel Project, New Caledonia (Kanaky)

Mr. Pierre Frogier
President New Caledonia
Fax : Int'l code + 687 24 65 50

7 March 2002

Dear President Frogier,

It has come to our attention that New Caledonia's community are calling on the government to extend the public comment period on the proposed Inco's Goro Nickel Project from one month to two years in order to conduct a more complete and independent assessment of the project. We support the community that deems these measures as important in order to protect the country's forests and oceans including one of the most intricate and beautiful coral reef systems in the world from destructive nickel mining exploitation.

Inco's proposed use of an experimental hydrometallurgical processing plant carries numerous risks. The operations will also involve the use of large amounts of sulfuric acid. The vapors of this sulfuric acid will produce acid rain and thereby cause severe environmental destruction to New Caledonia's forests. Other environmental concerns are related to the large amount of heavy metal laden water that will be dumped onto the coral reefs in the ocean as well as the large amounts of carbon dioxide that will be generated from the coal-fired plants that will be used to generate energy for the mining operations.

Kanak community representatives have also expressed their concerns over social, cultural, legal, technical and economic issues in relation to the proposed mine and have presented a petition to the French Secretary of State for Overseas Territories, Christian Paul, that calls for a two year delay in the project to allow for enough time for an independent environmental review and a socio-cultural impact assessment of the proposed project.

We also merit the public review process as flawed as the communities have had such a short time to review the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed mine made available on a website. Thus access to this information was very limited. As well as offering international scientists to make comments on the assessment in such a short time and in a language that most scientists cannot read is another flawed aspect of this process that needs to be addressed.

It is very important to note that Inco Ltd. from Canada has one of the most notorious company track records in the world. Inco's mine in Sulawesi, Indonesia had evicted indigenous communities, caused severe environmental degradation to the area's air, waters and land and have broke numerous promises of community development and obligations with the government like failing to pay land taxes and royalties. Meanwhile, Inco's Canadian smelters have been identified as the leading cause of acid rain in North America. At the moment, a class action is being brought forth by Canadian citizens against Inco and government bodies for the contamination of their properties with the carcinogen nickel oxide.

Therefore, we support the indigenous leaders and concerned citizens of New Caledonia who are requesting an immediate extension of the public comment period on the Goro Nickel Mine from one month to two years in order to conduct an independent assessment of the project.

We ask for your utmost attention on this matter and hope that immediate action is taken to address the concerns of the New Caledonia's citizens and safeguards are put in place that will sustain New Caledonia's communities, forests, splendid coral reef system and indigenous lands.

Yours Sincerely,

JATAM-Mining Advocacy Network
Jl. Mampang Prapatan II, No. 30, RT 04/07
Jakarta, Indonesia 12790

Mr. Yves Cochet, French Minister of the Environment:
FAX : Int'l code + 33 1 42 19 11 23

Mr. Thierry Chaverot, Office of the Environment, Southern Province
Fax : Int'l code + 687 24 32 56

Action Biosphere

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