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Goro Nickel Project Risks Growing Opposition from Unions, Kanak Representatives, Politicians, and En

Published by MAC on 2005-07-11

Goro Nickel Project Risks Growing Opposition from Unions, Kanak Representatives, Politicians, and Environmental Groups

Mineral Policy Institute/ Mining Watch Canada Media Advisory

July 11th 2005

Kanak Concerns Coalesce into Opposition: Communiqué Demands the Suspension of the Goro Nickel Project Until Inco Deals With Unresolved Issues

Canadian mining giant Inco is facing growing opposition from all sides in New Caledonia, including from local elected officials in the development of the Goro Nickel Project.

A delegation of New Caledonia authorities arrives in Brisbane this week to discuss a range of concerns with senior management of Inco amid growing discontent within New Caledonia.

Meanwhile civil society groups including indigenous Kanak representatives (Senators and members of the Rhéébù Nùù Committee) are calling upon Inco to halt its campaign to secure exemptions from environmental regulations and existing New Caledonian labour and environmental standards in the development of the Goro Nickel mine in Kanaky New Caledonia, and to address the increasing number of environmental, social and economic problems that have been exposed in the companies mining planned operations.

At the Nickel 2010 conference that took place in Noumea on July 7th and 8th Kanak traditional leaders, senators, political leaders and leaders of trade union organisations strongly expressed their lack of confidence in the Goro Nickel project, and called on the mining company to postpone development of the project.

Kanak organisation Rhéébù Nùù has issued a communiqué calling on the company to suspend its operations, stating that the failure of the company to respond properly to environmental, social and economic concerns has lead local communities to oppose the project: “we assert that the Goro Nickel project does not fulfill the conditions of respecting the environment and even less the conditions for sustainable development. The construction of the Goro Nickel project must be suspended and the vast campaign of misinformation around the current project must stop.” This statement will be presented on behalf of the Rhéébù Nùù Committee in Brisbane today at a meeting of New Caledonian officials and Inco management.

Inco’s efforts to operate without complying with the laws and regulations in New Caledonia appears to also be straining relations with local French authorities, and has also been the subject of sharp criticism by New Caledonian, French and Canadian trade union officials at a conference last week.

Where previously the local French administration has bowed to Inco’s demands it is now asking for some basic guarantees from Goro Nickel. President Philippe Gomez of the Southern Province has expressed concern regarding the unwillingness of Goro Nickel to respect advice and recommendations made by the province in consultations with the company. Philippe Gomez recently sent a three page letter to Inco to complain about a variety of outstanding issues including the request for permission to use public marine resources for the mine’s effluent pipeline that enters the lagoon and other concerns regarding the inadequacy of Inco’s environmental assessments regarding the development of port facilities and the residue storage cells.

The frustration with Inco’s conduct extends up the ranks of NC authorities with the French High commissioner Daniel Constentin having been recently quoted as saying “INCO is lying to every body.” (He told some of his interlocutors “Inco nous mène en bateau” in Les Infos n°143 of Friday July 1st)

Rumours are circulating about a possible decision by Inco to halt construction again amidst questions about how Inco will deal with the findings of an independent review group chosen by the southern province regarding the inadequacy of Inco’s Environmental Impact Assessments with respect to environmental and social issues.

“Inco needs to take a few step back and deal with the growing concerns of a widening section of the New Caledonian population before it proceeds with this project,” stated Techa Beaumont, of Australian based Mineral Policy Institute. “Without a social license to operate and particularly without good faith negotiated outcomes consented to by the local Kanak population they are facing not only severe reputation risks but increasingly risks to the development of the project itself.”

“Inco leadership has been completely aware of the deep discontent of indigenous Kanak leadership since at least 2001, when the first of a series of high-level Kanak delegations to Canada met with Inco in Toronto,” Says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “The Kanaks are asking for nothing more than a negotiated agreement on environmental and social conditions, such as Inco has with the indigenous Innu at their operations in Canada. Inco’s footdragging is now seriously threatening the Goro project.”

For more information, or a copy of the communiqué that will be delivered today to Inco and the New Caledonian:

Techa Beaumont: (Mineral Policy Institute, Australia): tel: +61 (0)409 318 406

Jacques Sarimin Boengkih: (Agence Kanak de Developpement, New Caledonia) tel: +687 412 244 or 687 919 119

Catherine Coumans:(MiningWatch Canada) tel: 1-613-569-3439

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