MAC: Mines and Communities

New Caledonia - Goro news and urgent action

Published by MAC on 2006-04-12

New Caledonia - Goro news and urgent action

12th April 2006

Global Response wants Inco to respect the wishes of the Indigenous Kanak people as they continue to blockade its Goro project in the French "Overseas Territory" of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Indigenous Kanak chiefs and villagers have been blockading all access to Inco’s Goro nickel project since March 29th. Some mining equipment has been destroyed, though it is not clear by whom, and Inco's claims of damage have risen to $10 million with no documentation yet made public. French colonial authorities have responded by sending troops to attack the blockade and by invoking anti-terrorist measures against at least one Kanak leader.

Dear Members of Global Response's "Quick Response Network"

12th April 2006

For the past three years Global Response has supported the Kanak indigenous people of New Caledonia in their efforts to prevent environmental destruction from the Goro nickel mine, operated by Canadian mining giant INCO. The mine threatens to pollute coastal waters and coral reefs, as well as land areas that are held sacred by the Kanak people. Although the Kanak people have channeled their demands through elected representatives, they have been ignored by French and provincial authorities and by INCO officials.

Last week some members of the Kanak community erected barricades and cut off access to the mine site and damaged INCO property, bringing the mining operation to a halt. There were a number of arrests.

Please write to international authorities and urge them to put pressure on French authorities and on INCO to respect the rights of the indigenous Kanak people.



Dear Sirs:

I urge you to investigate violations of the rights of the indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia, who oppose further construction of the Goro nickel mine operated by Goro-Nickel, a Paris based subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Inco. At stake for the Kanaks is the protection of fresh water from Yate Lake, which Inco plans to tap for the mine's operations, as well as the protection of nearby marine ecosystems, which Kanaks argue are threatened by a pipeline Inco plans to build to release mine waste water into the sea.

The Kanaks have been struggling for years to have Inco heed their requests for negotiations about the social and environmental impacts of Inco's massive project. They seek a negotiated and legally binding settlement regarding social and environmental impacts, much as that signed with Inco by the Innu of Labrador. The Kanak organization Rhéébù Nùù should be recognized as the legitimate representative of the Kanak people in these negotiations.

It is important to note that the Kanak people have not given their free prior and informed consent for this mine; the Senat Coutumier specifically withheld consent for the Goro mine in 2002.

Inco's CEO said at the 2004 AGM in Toronto that his company is not recognizing the indigenous peoples' rights in New Caledonia because France does not recognize these rights; On November 8th, 2004, The French Tribunal in Noumea said that the political and cultural rights of the indigenous people of New Caledonia exist and are protected by Law; Still, the Southern province president, Philippe Gomez and Inco-Goro Nickel refuse to negotiate with Rhéébù Nùù on the basis of the indigenous peoples' rights for better protection of all the communities - Kanaks and non Kanaks - from the environmental, cultural and social impacts of the project. All authorities and GN management continue to ignore contemptuously the Kanak demands, even when the traditional authorities ask that sacred sites on the mountain and in the Prony bay be respected.

Thank you for taking immediate steps to assure that the French government, local authorities and Inco respect the Kanak people's rights.



1) President Louis Schweitzer
Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité
11 rue Saint Georges
75009 Paris - France
Fax : + 331 5531 6149

Louis Schweitzer, president of the newly established Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité (HALDE) - High Authority for the struggle against discrimination and for equality:

2) José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
1049 Brussels - Belgium.

(In 2002 The European Parliament urged France to sign the European Convention for the protection of national minorities and also to sign and ratify the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal populations. EU has strong commitment to promoting the rights of indigenous peoples (Resolution of 30 November 1998) and has called the member states to implement the resolution especially when development programs affect indigenous communities directly or indirectly, etc.)

3) Fondation Danielle Mitterrand - France Libertés
22 rue de Milan - 75009 PARIS
tel : 0033 (0)1 53 25 10 40
fax : 0033 (0)1 53 25 10 42
Communication :
Marion Esquerré
Rita Cristofari

Danielle Mitterrand, widow of the former French president, is still very active on indigenous rights issues. She presides over France Libertés-Fondation Danielle Mitterrand and should be asked to support the struggle of one of "the indigenous peoples of the French Republic"!

4) Rodolfo Stavenhagen
United Nations Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
United Nations - Room DC2-1772,
2 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Telephone : (917) 367-5100
Fax : (917) 367-5102
E-mail :

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights;

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Paula Palmer, Executive Director
Global Response

PO Box 7490
Boulder, Colorado 80306
United States

Tel +303/444-0306

Global Response organizes effective international letter-writing campaigns to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples. See action alerts for adults, teens and children at

Inco reports more vandalism at Goro nickel site

By Scott Anderson, TORONTO (Reuters)

7th April 2006

- Inco Ltd. said on Friday that there had been a new round of vandalism at its Goro nickel site in New Caledonia as a group of locals stepped up its opposition to the massive construction project.

The company said the latest attacks had damaged water lines and a radio communications tower. It gave no new estimates for the cost of the damage and said it would provide figures when it releases first-quarter results on April 1.

Earlier this week it pegged the cost at about $10 million.

"While the police had cleared the access roads to the site, groups of people have remained in the area and have continued to engage in sporadic vandalism," company spokesman Steve Mitchell said.

National Bank Financial analyst Ian Howat said the strife was not likely to affect his Inco earnings outlook in the short-term.

"I don't see it having much impact on their earnings for the next year or two. It wasn't supposed to be up and running until late 2007, so I haven't even put anything into my forecast until 2007. I was taking a wait-and-see approach," he said.

"Sometime in the future it will (have an impact), depending on how long it lasts."

Inco, one of the biggest nickel miners in the world, suspended construction of the $1.9 billion nickel mine on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia this week after the first attacks damaged trucks and excavators and blocked a number of access roads.

The group, headed by the Kanak organization Rheebu Nuu, says it is worried about the project's social and environmental impact including protection of nearby marine ecosystems.

"Rheebu Nuu has been struggling for years to have Inco heed their requests for negotiations about the social and environmental impacts of Inco's massive project," environmental group MiningWatch Canada said on its website.

"They seek a negotiated and legally binding settlement regarding social and environmental impacts, much as that signed with Inco by the Innu of Labrador."

Mitchell said Inco, which is developing the big Voisey's Bay project in Labrador, planned to host a round-table discussion with the major stakeholders of the mine and the opposition group in hopes of coming to a solution.

He said construction would not resume until the local government could ensure that the area was secure.

Inco, which owns a 69 percent stake in the mine, wants to complete construction by late 2007. It forecasts production will build up to an annual 60,000 tonnes of nickel and up to 5,000 tonnes of cobalt.

Inco shares were down C$1.35, or 2.2 percent, at C$60.06 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday.

($1=$1.15 Canadian)

Press release from Rhéébù Nùù following recent unrest and round-table conference

(Further press releases and information can be obtained from our website

8th April 2006

I respond to the attacks that have been aimed at us and would like to elucidate our sympathisers and the populace.

About the round-table conference requested by Rhéébù Nùù: the high commissioner, the South Province and Goro Nickel transformed it into a court for the judgement of the actions of Rhéébù Nùù, and into a tribune for those that want the construction of this industrial garbage that is Goro-Nickel's factory.

The pro-independence parties and anti-independence parties joined as one to defend what they consider their marked territory: the Noumea accords and the republican ideas of the majority, minority and the concept of representation. For the anti-independence camp, let's say it's expected, but for the independentist leaders, it is a serious fact that they are incapable of innovating and expressing "Kanak Identity and indigenous rights". What is the society plan of a certain Pascal, Adolphe, Victor ? Are they trying to be "whiter than white" (westerners)? And by which rights, and in the name of which representation, Pascal, Charles W. and their parties permit themselves to judge us, us whom amongst the sons and daughters of the southern land, have decided to defend it, whatever the cost, because we take it to be our duty and our right?

When have we seen Kanaks condemn other Kanaks fighting for their land, outside of the worst moments of our colonial history?

I remind that we stand for a stop to the project as it stands and consequently Gomes and Inco must re-evaluate their project that we judge inacceptable in its current form.

I confirm that of the 300 Kanak persons that have worked on the site of Goro-Nickel from the clans of Yaté, the isle of Ouen, the isle of Pines and Mont-Doré, 80% are with the fight of Rhéébù Nùù.

If the aim of the state, of the Southern province and of Goro-Nickel is to annihilate Rhéébù Nùù and supposing they manage, then they should be aware that the fight will continue in other forms. Whilst at the helm of the organisation, the president and the secratary general of Rhéébù Nùù, are in position to manage a reasonable exit out of the crisis before going to court.

I ask the high commissioner to lucidly take stock of the situation ignoring the agitated cries of the elect. As a matter of fact, either it's an escalation with the unending interventions of the police and nothing is resolved. Or a truce is observed and a solution negociated.

Mr. Gomes must also stop his lies and his demagogic and bamboozling rhetoric. We know his background as head of the Adraf where millions have disapeared according to the report of the general inspection. We know he arrived in 1989 in La Foa with no wealth or inheritance yet his current wealth is such that he is head of the company Spot which was awarded the air conditioning contract for Goro-Nickel.

We were present at the four meetings (9/10/04, 03/05, 04/05, 26/11/05) and Gomes never kept his word. It is clear that since 2002 but especially since 2003 that what is unacceptable for Rhéébù Nùù and the clan at Goro, is the dumping of heavy metals in the sea. Goro-Nickel and Gomes have patiently attempted to skirt round this issue, by mentioning future scientific studies, a decidedly upside down kind of prevention.

The counter enquiry imposed by Rhéébù Nùù in March and April 2005, was supposed to return its report in July 2005. Yet nothing has come of it! The experts of the CEREGES never met up with Rhéébù Nùù and Gomes refuses that our representatives participate in the committee overviewing the work of the counter enquiry. Where is the transparency and honesty of a Philippe Gomes, president of the South Province?

We have focussed our position on heavy metals whilst requesting the respect of the ISO 9001 safety norms, ISO 14001, SEVESO II and the question of seismic shocks. Since October 2004, there have been only four meetings to minimise the Rhéébù Nùù's influence on these matters and allow the construction of the factory whose ICPE authorisation has become obsolete.

And when can we expect a decision from the administrative court proceedings of the 1st of February?

Philippe Gomes should withdraw his ICPE authorisation and take environmental considerations to a credible level. The FLNKS should take it upon themselves to establish a base of national heritage managed by the Kanak chieftainships.

Rhéébù Nùù salutes the commitment of the CAUGERN and the senators int this fight for the respect for our environment and the defence of our heritage.

The mobilisation will last weeks or months if necessary, but we will obtain the acknowledgement of our rights.

Stand up and fight!

The Secretary General
Raphaël Mapou

Inco’s Goro Site Blockaded Again by Indigenous Kanaks: French Troops Respond with Violent Action

by MiningWatch Canada news release

3rd April 2006

April 3, 2005 (Ottawa) Indigenous Kanak Chiefs and villagers are currently blockading all access to Inco’s massive Goro Nickel project on the island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. The blockades started in the evening of March 29th. All terrestrial access to the Goro Nickel’s plant site, power plant site and mine is blocked with heavy trucks and huge loaders. Access to the site by sea is being blockaded as well.

The blockade is headed up by the Kanak organization Rhéébù Nùù. Rhéébù Nùù’s President, André Vama, and Secretary General, Raphaël Mapou, have been warning New Caledonia’s political leaders, as well as the French authorities who still govern this French Overseas Territory, that failure to respond to Kanak concerns about the project’s environmental and social impacts would lead to action. This latest blockade follows on months of demonstrations near the plant site.

At stake for the Kanaks is the protection of fresh water from Yaté Lake, which Inco plans to tap for the mine’s operations, as well as the protection of nearby marine ecosystems, which Kanaks argue are threatened by a pipeline Inco plans to build to release mine waste water into the sea. Rhéébù Nùù has been struggling for years to have Inco heed their requests for negotiations about the social and environmental impacts of Inco’s massive project. They seek a negotiated and legally binding settlement regarding social and environmental impacts, much as that signed with Inco by the Innu of Labrador.

This latest action is supported by Kanak leaders and communities from all over New Caledonia. An indigenous authority from nearby Isle-of-Pines has spoken up for the first time explaining to French TV that they have decided to support Rhéébù Nùù as they are already seeing pollution from the Goro Nickel project reaching their fishing grounds. “Since the last heavy rains, the sea has turned red with the pollution coming from the main island,” he said. “Now we have the proof that Rhéébù Nùù has been telling the truth when warning all of us about the risks of destruction of our way of life. The mine is already polluting our fishing grounds. What must we expect from the chemical plant and the waste water they want to dispose of into the sea from which we get our food?” he added.

A camp has been established on the main road to the mine site. According to witness Jacques Boengkih, “The camp is well organized to last a long time. People from other mining villages have come with trucks loaded with food. A Noumea businessman has delivered a container of rice and sugar. Women are in charge of feeding the people and have organized their teams of young men to collect timber for cooking and to do the dishes.”

However, Boengkih also noted that “more than ten trucks full of French troops, as well as armoured cars have moved towards the blockades,” adding that over the weekend “French troops charged the blockades and at one blockade site the troops fired with live ammunition. A car has bullet holes in the body and in the tires.” Boengkih also indicated that Kanak youths setting up a blockade at the Goro port have been arrested.

Boengkih insists that the Kanaks are advocating non-violent actions but also that they are determined. He notes that “One of the signs at the camp says, ‘The hardest is not to die, the hardest is being a foreigner on your own land.’”

Inco has a reputation for conflict with indigenous peoples at its global operations. Currently Inco is also facing opposition by the indigenous Karonsi’e Dongi at its operations in Indonesia. In March, Inco was removed from the Financial Times Sustainability Index (FTSE4Good) as it “failed to meet the FTSE4Good human rights criteria requirements”.

– 30 –

For more information and for pictures of the blockade:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada: 613-256-8331 or 613-569-3439
Jacques Boengkih, Agence Kanak de Developpement, Nouvelle-Caledonie Tel 687+412 244 - Fax 687+412 294

Vandals force shutdown of Inco project: About 50 people hit Goro mine

by Wendy Stueck, Globe and Mail

4th April 2006

VANCOUVER -- Inco Ltd. has been forced to stop work on its huge Goro nickel mine in New Caledonia after about 50 people attacked and vandalized the project over the weekend, adding to the nervousness of a commodities market already twitchy over potential shortages.

The project is to remain closed until local authorities are able to clear the road leading to the site, Inco spokesman Steve Mitchell said yesterday.

"We have temporarily halted work until New Caledonian authorities can remove these people from the site and ensure safe, unhindered access and ensure the safety of our people there," Mr. Mitchell said.

Although Goro is not expected to be in production until late next year, some London-based analysts said a delay in the project could prolong a current shortage of the metal, used primarily in making stainless steel.

Several new mines, including Goro, are scheduled to come into production before 2010.

Salman Partners Inc. analyst Ray Goldie said the delay would not likely have any impact on the market unless it continued for weeks or months.

Nickel futures rose $750 (U.S.) to $16,000 a ton on the London Metal Exchange, the highest price since June, as metal prices continued to set a blazing pace. Copper climbed to a record high and prices for zinc, tin, aluminum and lead also rose.

Mr. Mitchell could not say when work would resume, but said local authorities had removed some equipment on the access road to the site and made several arrests.

No Inco employees were injured in the attacks, the latest in a string of smaller protests targeting the mine in recent months. About 1,600 employees work on the project, but only about 200 of them were on site over the weekend, Mr. Mitchell said.

He said the group responsible for the attacks is a small one that opposes development of the mine, which he said has significant local support.

Catherine Coumans, a spokeswoman for Ottawa-based MiningWatch, said the weekend's actions are supported by indigenous leaders and communities from all over New Caledonia, a French Overseas Territory in the southwestern Pacific that is estimated to hold about one-third of the world's known nickel supplies.

The $1.9-billion Goro project is a key element in the growth plans of Inco, which is in the midst of a friendly takeover bid for Toronto-based Falconbridge Ltd.

That transaction, which would create the biggest nickel producer in the world, is under review by competition authorities in the U.S. and Europe. Falconbridge is also developing a project, Koniambo, in New Caledonia.

Inco was forced to put development of Goro on hold in late 2002 after cost estimates for the project ballooned. After a sweeping review, the company resumed work on the project in 2004.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday, Inco shares closed up $1.43 (Canadian) at $59.65

Kanak Leaders Outlawed

by Jacques Boengkih

Tuesday April 4, a few minutes after 9:00pm. Raphaël Mapou’s home, Koutio suburb, Dumbea, outskirts of Noumea, New Caledonia’s capital city.

Through the open entry door, Lisa, Raphaël’s eldest daughter, sees a group of police forcing the gate to enter her home. Within few seconds about 20 anti-riot police officers are everywhere in the house occupied by Lisa and her three children age 5, 4 and 1, and her 13 year old sister.

Once all troops are in the house, their commanding officer enters. Lisa asks him if they have the right to enter by force into someone’s private home at night and to show her any legal document such as a search warrant.

The commanding officer answers that he is acting on special request by the prosecutor to find and arrest Raphaël Mapou. He has no obligation to show any legal document authorising their action and if Lisa is not happy, she can always take her case to the court, but she must understand that her case will go nowhere.

Lisa’s sister, afraid of these men in anti-riot wear and armed with guns, tries to telephone her mother, still at the Noumea court to help two young Kanaks arrested during the week-end blockade of Goro-Nickel.

Two police officers shout at her saying that she must not call anyone. Traumatised, the child cries her soul out. Everyone knows how sensitive she is and that she usually spends most of her time with both her parents.

The police search the entire house and after not finding the person they were looking for they go away, ordering Lisa to be at the police station by the following morning for questioning.

A lawyer questioned about the legality of the police operation explained that a special procedure has been used: special powers are given by the prosecutor to police forces to search for and to arrest dangerous criminals that represent a threat to the security of a person or of a population. That would be the procedure in the case of a search for terrorists.

No court in New Caledonia has ever declared Raphaël Mapou a criminal.

But this confirms a warning coming from the prosecutor’s entourage saying that Goro-Nickel management and the Southern Province authorities are working on obtaining an order from the judicial authorities to outlaw the two Rhéébù Nùù leaders, André Vama and Raphaël Mapou, and to dissolve the Rhéébù Nùù committee.

The customary Senate has called upon the French High commissioner to organise a round table with all parties concerned by the Goro conflict, including the two outlawed leaders with the guarantee from the French authorities that the two men will be left free to go after the round table that should end only when an agreement have been signed by all parties.

We still wait to know at what time tomorrow the round table will take place.

Meanwhile Kanak traditional leaders and people from the mining villages are converging on the Madeleine bridge where the Rhéébù Nùù committee still holds a camp to control the traffic to Yaté and Goro -- the same camp that the French troops did not succeed in demolishing when they attacked the occupants on the weekend.

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