Category Archives: New Caledonia

Arrests in New Caledonia over mine attacks

Loop Pacific | November 26, 2018

Police in New Caledonia have arrested three men in connection with the arson attacks on the SLN nickel company’s site in Kouaoua.

Two of them have been charged, with one of them admitting to setting two fires to the conveyor belt which feeds ore to the coast for shipping to the SLN smelter in Noumea

The third suspect has been transferred to prison after he had been given a jail term of 18 months in June. The arrests came only days after 15 trucks were destroyed in Kouaoua.

Earlier police had removed a blockade of the mining site which has been the scene of protracted disputes this year with a group opposed to expanded mining.

There have been a total of 15 fires this year damaging the conveyor belt.

1 Comment

Filed under Human rights, New Caledonia

Second major New Caledonia nickel mine closed by protesters

Protesters shut down SLN’s Tiebaghi mine in New Caledonia’s far north Photo: FB MGRK Ouémaolep Nouvelle-Caledonie

Radio New Zealand | 3 October 2018 

A second large nickel mine in New Caledonia has been blockaded, stopping about 200 people from going to work.

Activists of the Movement of Revolutionary Kanak Groups took the action at Tiebaghi which is a key nickel mine of the SLN company.

The group said it wanted next month’s independence referendum called off, land returned and indigenous rights recognised.

It also said it wanted to negotiate only with the French state, accusing it of pillaging the area’s wealth.

One of its leaders said the group was against the referendum because it wouldn’t guarantee independence, adding that no referendum was held to seize New Caledonia.

The shutdown of the Tiebaghi site in the far north of the main island follows the closure two months ago of the Kouaoua mining centre by a local group opposed to expanded mining.

Security forces have not intervened.

Protestors in New Caledonia’s north demanding independence from France Photo: FB MGRK Ouémaolep Nouvelle-Caledonie

1 Comment

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, New Caledonia

Large-scale Mines and Local Politics: Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea

Download the chapters in PDF format

  1. Large-Scale Mines and Local‑Level Politics (PDF, 0.2MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  2. From Anticipation to Practice: Social and Economic Management of a Nickel Plant’s Establishment in New Caledonia’s North Province (PDF, 0.8MB) – Jean-Michel Sourisseau, Sonia Grochain and David Poithily 
  3. Social and Environmental Transformations in the Neighbourhood of a Nickel Mining Project: A Case Study from Northern New Caledonia (PDF, 1.7MB) – Matthias Kowasch 
  4. The Boakaine Mine in New Caledonia: A Local Development Issue? (PDF, 0.1MB) – Christine Demmer 
  5. Conflict and Agreement: The Politics of Nickel in Thio, New Caledonia (PDF, 0.1MB) – Pierre-Yves Le Meur 
  6. Contesting the Goro Nickel Mining Project, New Caledonia: Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development and the Land Issue (PDF, 0.2MB) – Claire Levacher 
  7. Dissecting Corporate Community Development in the Large-Scale Melanesian Mining Sector (PDF, 0.4MB) – Glenn Banks, Dora Kuir-Ayius, David Kombako and Bill F. Sagir 
  8. Negotiating Community Support for Closure or Continuation of the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – Colin Filer and Phillipa Jenkins 
  9. Disconnected Development Worlds: Responsibility towards Local Communities in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – John Burton and Joyce Onguglo 
  10. Gender Mainstreaming and Local Politics: Women, Women’s Associations and Mining in Lihir (PDF, 0.1MB) – Susan R. Hemer 
  11. Migrants, Labourers and Landowners at the Lihir Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea (PDF, 1.4MB) – Nicholas A. Bainton 
  12. Bougainville: Origins of the Conflict, and Debating the Future of Large-Scale Mining (PDF, 0.2MB) – Anthony J. Regan 
  13. Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.1MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur 

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea

CEO explains experimental undersea mining

In the article below Nautilus’ CEO paints a rosy picture that is very much at odds with the REAL STORY in its financial filings. Follow the links to read the true picture: 

Nautilus admits serious questions over Solwara 1 viability and future

Nautilus admits environmental impacts of experimental seabed mining unknown

The National aka The Loggers Times | May 25, 2017

THE first undersea mining in the country will take place in New Ireland and operated by Nautilus Minerals. Chief executive officer MIKE JOHNSTON explained to The National’s Business Editor SHIRLEY MAULUDU the nature of the project. He also discussed environmental aspects of the project.

MAULUDU: Tell us briefly about the company Nautilus Minerals.
JOHNSTON: Nautilus is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is the first public company to explore the deep ocean floor the world’s future mineral resources. Nautilus was granted the world’s first exploration licence for deep sea mineral resources in 1997. Our first mining lease and environment permit were granted in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
MAULUDU: Tell us about the Solwara 1 project in New Ireland.
JOHNSTON: The Solwara 1 project is located in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea, 30 kms from the coast of New Ireland and 1600 meters below the surface. The project uses technologies from the offshore oil and gas industry, and terrestrial underground mining to produce high grade copper and gold. The planned extractions area is very small at 0.1 km2.  Additional benefits include that no tailings are produced, no landowners are required to be moved, and there is no impact from mining above 1300m water depth. The project is being developed in partnership with the PNG Government. It is fully permitted and has strong local and national support.
MAULUDU: Which communities, wards or the district in New Ireland will be directly impacted by the project?
JOHNSTON: As Solwara 1 is located at 1,600m water depth in the ocean, 30km from land, no one is directly impacted by the project. There is also no requirement to clear land, and no impact on tuna or coastal fisheries. An area known as the “Coastal Area of Benefit” (CAB) has been established by the provincial and national governments, where communication and community benefit programmes are focussed. The CAB comprises seven wards on the west coast of New Ireland. Only last week, Nautilus, in partnership with the NIPG, and with the assistance of Abt Associates and the New Ireland Provincial Health Authority, completed a health patrol and data collection programme (began in Oct 2016). The team estimated during this programme that they saw 7000-plus patients, out of a population of around 8500. These programmes will be ongoing.
MAULUDU: What sort of tools will be used to carry out the mining?
JOHNSTON: The production system uses existing technology from the offshore oil and gas sector, combined with rock cutting and materials handling technologies used in land-based operations.
The three main components of the Seafloor Production System are:
l Seafloor Production Tools comprising auxiliary cutter, bulk cutter and collecting machine;
l riser and Lifting System; and,
l Production Support Vessel.
The mining tools cut the rock material, which is then transferred to the Production Support Vessel as a “sloppy slurry” via a very large pump and steel pipe (riser) system.  On board the vessel the high grade rock is separated from the water by gravity methods. The resulting rock is stored in the ship’s hull, to be later transfer to a bulk cargo vessel, then shipped directly to China.
MAULUDU: How will the minerals be mined from under the sea?
JOHNSTON: Rock is cut on the seafloor by the AC and the BC, and then pumped to an adjacent stockpile area. The third machine, CM, then collects the cut material, sucking it up and transferring it as seawater slurry to the main pump, situated at the bottom of the steel riser system. The riser system comprises a rigid steel riser pipe supported from the vessel which delivers the slurry to the surface. The large subsea pump is situated at the bottom of the riser pump, just off the sea floor.  The entire riser and pump system is suspended directly beneath the support vessel. On the deck of the Production Support Vessel, the slurry is dewatered using gravity. The solid material is stored temporarily in the PSV’s hull, and then discharged to a transportation vessel moored alongside. Filtered seawater is pumped back to the seafloor through the riser pipes and provides hydraulic power to operate the RALS pump. Discharge of the return water at the seafloor from where it came eliminates mixing of the water column, and minimises the environmental impact of the operation.
MAULUDU: What minerals in particular will Nautilus be mining for?
JOHNSTON: Copper and gold.
MAULUDU: Environmental issues have been raised by individuals, groups, regarding the Solwara 1 project. How will Nautilus avoid causing any impact on the environment within which it will operate?
JOHNSTON: There are many significant environmental benefits to mining in the deep sea. And our systems try to use these benefits as much as possible. These include effectively no mine tailings, minimal pre-stripping of sediment, low fresh water needs, no vegetation stripping or fresh water catchment issues, minimal rehabilitation costs with no permanent on-site infrastructure such as roads, power lines, buildings and so on. At Solwara 1 we were able for example to design our riser system as a fully enclosed pump and pipe system to extract the mineralised material from the seafloor. There is no mixing of the water column and there is no impact from mining shallower than 1300m water depth at Solwara 1 (more than 1000 meters below where most tuna, whales etc live)
MAULUDU: How is Nautilus doing with its awareness programme in educating the impact communities on the nature of the project?
JOHNSTON: Nautilus has always and continues to ensure that the communities located closest to its Solwara 1 Project (and the wider community in PNG) are fully informed about the Solwara 1 Project. During the development of the Solwara 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), we visited a number of villages and towns in PNG to ensure the views and concerns of local communities were heard. The specific villages and towns were determined in consultation with PNG national and provincial governments. Our commitment to the community does not end with the completion of the EIS or granting of the Environment Permit. Community engagements have continued to take place since the Environment Permit was granted by the then Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in December 2009. Representatives from the national and provincial governments accompany Nautilus Minerals during these community engagement campaigns. To date, Nautilus Minerals has recorded the attendance of around 30,000 people at engagements/awareness campaigns held in 46 locations within PNG. Both numbers are still growing. We plan to continue with our community engagement campaigns in New Ireland and East New Britain as we move into the operations phase of the project. We have and will continue to focus our engagement programme on the villages located nearest to the Solwara 1 Project site, the CAB. This area covers the communities who have the greatest interest in understanding the project and this will be where many of our CSR programs will be implemented.
MAULUDU: Give an update on the progress of the Solwara 1 project.
JOHNSTON: Nautilus has taken delivery of the Seafloor Production Tools (SPTs). They are currently undergoing submerged trials in PNG. The Riser and Ancillary equipment is completed and currently in storage. The Subsea Slurry and Lift Pump is completed and Nautilus will take delivery of it later this year. The Production Support Vessel is currently being built in China and is progressing to schedule.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea

Film explores mining, independence in New Caledonia

A still from the environmental film Cap Bocage about New Caledonia. Image: Jim Marbrook/PMC

A still from the environmental film Cap Bocage about New Caledonia. Image: Jim Marbrook/PMC

Pacific Media Watch | PNG Loop

The maker of a documentary that explores conflicts surrounding nickel mining in New Caledonia says he hopes it shows the complexity of the independence issue.

Director Jim Marbrook made the documentary Cap Bocage, which follows independence activist Florent Eurisouké as he and the environmental organisation Mèè Rhaari take on the French mining company Ballande in New Caledonia.

The film was first shown at the New Zealand International Film Festival earlier this year, and was shown again as part of the Pacific Journalism Review conference last week.

Marbrook said the film showed that independence was connected with nickel mining, which complicated environmental and traditional land rights issues in New Caledonia.

“Because the Northern Province does have a nickel mine that brings in quite a lot of money and that may also fuel some autonomous position for the Northern Province, and of course the independence movement is a kind of uneasy bedfellow in many respects with the kind of environmental movement. Where there’s money, there’s nickel and there are some pretty stringent controls you’ve got to take when you’re trying to protect the environment from open cast mining.”

A vote on an independence referendum is expected by 2018.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, New Caledonia

Call to shore up New Caledonia nickel production


Radio New Zealand

A leading figure in New Caledonia’s nickel sector has warned against possible outside predators in the industry, which is the territory’s economic backbone.

Andre Dang, who has been instrumental in developing the nickel plant in the north, made the comment in an interview with the Nouvelles Caledoniennes newspaper after being appointed to run the board of the three provinces’ joint industry company.

Mr Dang says there is a need to secure the territory’s nickel resource, saying New Caledonia’s stake in companies like Eramet is small.

Eramet is the parent company of SLN which runs the territory’s oldest smelter in Noumea.

He says as a listed company, Eramet could be taken over with catastrophic results for the territory.

Mr Dang is also wary of the Chinese involvement with the local Mai group as their plans to build a smelter in Vanuatu could depress prices.

He says the nickel ore reserves are not unlimited and it’s advisable to produce nickel for as long as possible at a price as high as possible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Financial returns, New Caledonia, Vanuatu

New Caledonia uproar over mine deal probe

 Radio New Zealand

The new president of New Caledonia’s southern province, Philippe Michel, is considering lodging a defamation case after an inquiry into a nickel ore deal was cut short amid allegations the tabled document was fake.

A pre-election MOU between the province and Eramet of France as well as Vale of Brazil provided for a four-year study of the Prony and Pernod deposits in the south of the main island, with a view to consider building a new nickel plant.

Mr Michel cancelled the MOU when he was elected, sayings the deal was illegal on several counts and included a secret section approved by his predecessor, Cynthia Ligeard.

She in turn called for an inquiry and at the start of a hearing on Friday, her former advisor Alban Tremblier refused to answer questions, saying the tabled MOU was a fake.

Mr Michel is now considering to lodge a defamation case.

The cancelled deal provided for a joint venture company, in which the provincial government would have been the biggest shareholder, to examine estimates that the deposits contain three million tonnes of nickel that could be mined over 50 years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Exploration, Mine construction, New Caledonia

Vanuatu nickel smelting plans lampooned in art

This cartoon comes from celebrated New Caledonian artist Gielbé.

A new factory for Caledonian nickel

The workmen’s pay is peanuts,

there will be no taxes to pay,

and pollution will be outsourced :

construction is programmed to be at our friends’ place in Vanuatu …


Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu

Strange smell already from proposed Vanuatu nickel smelter

Last week the Chinese company Jin Pei and New Caledonian MKM announced a $1 billion deal to ship nickel ore to Vanuatu to be processed in a new smelting plant to be built on Santo. The new smelter will be completed within five years according to the announcement.

Nickel smelting is dirty business and the people of New Caledonia don’t want the highly polluting smelter on their land. In contrast, Jin Pei and MKM claimed the Vanuatu government had already approved the smelting proposal and they praised Vanuatu for its cheap labour and low taxes.

Vanuatu’s Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Ralph Regenvanu was not impressed. He quickly issued a statement dismissing the companies’ claims and saying the Vanuatu government knew nothing about the supposed deal: “it’s nothing to do with the Vanuatu government, and therefore it’s not going to happen”.

Regenvanu’s stand was backed the by the Chief Executive of Vanuatu’s Investmnet Promotion Authority. Smith Tebu said his office had not received any application for the construction of a nickel smelting plant.

But then the rhetoric from the Vanuatu government changed significantly. In the latest statement from the Prime Ministers office we learn the government is interested the proposal and Jin Pei and MKM have been invited to submit a formal application.

So what is the real story here?

  • Would MKM and Jin Pai announce the smelting plant was going ahead and giving a timetable for the project if they had not already met with the Vanuatu government and secured approval?
  • Is it true that Ham Lini met with Jin Pei and MKM officials prior to their announcement on 21 September?
  • Is it true the companies have been provided with documents giving provisional government approval provided they followed all proper legal processes?
  • Was this approval given without the knowledge of the PM, most of his government and the relevant government Departments?

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, New Caledonia, Vanuatu

New Caledonian, Chinese companies plan Vanuatu nickel partnership

Reuters / PACNEWS

Santo, Vanuatu

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The South Pacific islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu are studying a plan to jointly mine and process nickel ores into refined metal to help produce stainless steel in China.

The acting prime minister of Vanuatu, Ham Lini, has expressed interest in the proposal and has asked the partners to lodge a formal application to construct the smelter in his country.

The move comes as Chinese steel mills scour the Asia-Pacific region for alternative supplies of nickel after top supplier Indonesia imposed a ban on such exports in January.

Under the proposed partnership, New Caledonian company MKM Group and China’s Jin Pei Century Investment (Group) Co Ltd plan to mine low-purity nickel ore in the French Pacific territory and ship it to Santo in northern Vanuatu for smelting.

Media reports in New Caledonia said the project would be owned 51 percent by MKM and 49 percent by Jin Pei.

The head of MKM, Wilfried Mai, told New Caledonian television he had advised the Chinese investors to build the plant in Vanuatu.

“It’s a country in Melanesia, there is no tax, labour is not expensive and it’s not far away from our country – all the advantages,” Mai said.

Vanuatu has no history of mining or refining.

In contrast, New Caledonia is awash with nickel ore, holding as much as a quarter of the world’s known reserves. Nickel dominates the economy, with than 6,000 people employed in processing of the ore.

But building a new plant there would prove difficult, given mounting local opposition to such industries following half a dozen environmental incidents at Goro nickel plant, owned by Vale of Brazil, the latest involving the discharge of 100,000 litres of acid-tainted effluent in May..

Another smelter in the capital, Noumea, operated by Societe Le Nickel and part owned by France’s Eramet, has long been criticised for filling the sky with smoke and marring the natural beauty of the area.

Vanuatu’s government is sensitive to such concerns.

“The government wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that landowners receive maximum benefits from the refinery if it is established, and that the plant does not adversely impact their environment or compromise the lives of their future generations,” Lini said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The Indonesian ban removed a third of global nickel mine supply, driving nickel prices up by as much as 50 percent this year.

South Pacific countries are vying to play a bigger role in supplying nickel, which is required to make stainless steel.

This month, a court in the Solomon Islands finally unlocked a large nickel deposit that geologists have known about for half a century but have been unable to exploit because of ownership changes and legal wrangling.

A nickel mine in Papua New Guinea developed by Ramu NiCo and majority-owned by Metallurgical Corp of China is already operating.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mine construction, New Caledonia, Vanuatu