MAC: Mines and Communities

Background information

Published by MAC on 2002-07-15

Background information

New-Caledonia is an archipelago situated 1,800 km East of Australia and 2,200 km North of New Zealand. With a land mass of 19,000 km2, its Economic Exclusive Zone is 1,700,000 km2. La Grande Terre (the big island) the main island, 400 km long and 60 km wide, has the biggest nickel deposit in the world and has great richness in natural resources.

The Indigenous People is the Kanak people, belonging to the Melanesian peopling arc of the South Pacific (Papua New-Guinea, Solomon Islands, New-Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fidji Islands). Today the Kanak people represent 47% of the total population of 200,000.

In 1853, France took possession of New Caledonia which today is part of the French Overseas Territories. Since the signing of the Matignon Accord in 1988 and the Noumea Accord in 1998, the territory benefits from a special status which will end in a 15 to 20 year term with a referendum on self-determination.

These accords, signed after a long struggle by the Kanak people, signed between the FLNKS pro-independence from France on one hand and France and the pro-France RPCR party on the other, give New Caledonia the powers of an autonomous Government, France is keeping power over Justice, Defence, Security and Money.

New-Caledonia is divided into three provinces the Northern Province and the Loyalty Island Province with a majority of Kanak population and the Southern Province with a majority of European population. Each Province has the control over its natural resources.

a.. In 1991 INCO buys for US$ 25 millions the mining titles for the Goro deposit (Southern Province) evaluated to 400 million tonnes of ore/6 million tons of metal Ni.

b.. In 2000, INCO announces the construction of a plant using the High Pressure Acid Leach of a production capacity of 55,000 tons of nickel and 5,000 tons of cobalt. This project will be granted by the Government of New Caledonia a full tax cut over a period of 15 years, plus a tax reduction of 50% over the following 5 years. France will also grant a tax cut on investment equivalent to US$350 million;

c.. Second half of 2001, launching of the first contracts and works;

d.. First half 2002, signature between INCO and the BTH Consortium (Bechtel, Tecnip and Hatch) of a contract for the engineering and the construction of the plant for a total cost of US$ 1.45 billion with an opening planned for 2004. Beginning of gigantic major earthmoving works.

e.. July 2002, INCO is granted for free the deposit of Prony (neighbour to Goro) with an estimated 4 million tons of metal nickel contained.

f.. September 2002, due to a first review of the construction increasing to US$1.7 billion, INCO and BTH decide on a first stoppage of the construction works that will last 2 months.

g.. December 2002, BTH announces a new re-evaluation estimated to US$2.1 billion. Toronto decides on a new stoppage of 6 months.

h.. End of February 2003, closing of the Goro Nickel mining site. Trade Union organisations start actions.

i.. March 8 to March 20, 2003, a delegation of the Rheebu Nuu monitoring Committee and members of the Customary Senate visit Canada.

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