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
Download the chapters in PDF format
- Large-Scale Mines and Local‑Level Politics (PDF, 0.2MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur
- 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
- Social and Environmental Transformations in the Neighbourhood of a Nickel Mining Project: A Case Study from Northern New Caledonia (PDF, 1.7MB) – Matthias Kowasch
- The Boakaine Mine in New Caledonia: A Local Development Issue? (PDF, 0.1MB) – Christine Demmer
- Conflict and Agreement: The Politics of Nickel in Thio, New Caledonia (PDF, 0.1MB) – Pierre-Yves Le Meur
- Contesting the Goro Nickel Mining Project, New Caledonia: Indigenous Rights, Sustainable Development and the Land Issue (PDF, 0.2MB) – Claire Levacher
- 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
- Negotiating Community Support for Closure or Continuation of the Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – Colin Filer and Phillipa Jenkins
- Disconnected Development Worlds: Responsibility towards Local Communities in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB) – John Burton and Joyce Onguglo
- Gender Mainstreaming and Local Politics: Women, Women’s Associations and Mining in Lihir (PDF, 0.1MB) – Susan R. Hemer
- Migrants, Labourers and Landowners at the Lihir Gold Mine, Papua New Guinea (PDF, 1.4MB) – Nicholas A. Bainton
- Bougainville: Origins of the Conflict, and Debating the Future of Large-Scale Mining (PDF, 0.2MB) – Anthony J. Regan
- Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.1MB) – Colin Filer and Pierre-Yves Le Meur
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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?