7 Feb 2005

Kanak leaders due in court over New Caledonian mine blockade

4:35 pm on 7 February 2005

Two Kanak leaders arrested for their role at a blockade at the Goro nickel project site in New Caledonia will appear in court tomorrow morning.

Dozens of landowners set up the roadblocks last week, accusing the site operators, Inco of Canada, of not respecting their concerns for the environment.

Customary chiefs and the territorial administration have condemned the action which led to the arrest of two leaders of the Rheebu Nuu group, Raphael Mapou and Andre Vama.

Kanak spokesperson Jacques Boengkih says the blockade was demanding that Inco allow an independent assessment of the environment.

"Inco is refusing to negotiate with them, the negotiation of their rights as owners of the land and owners of the sea. Just the way Inco did with the Inuit Association and the Innu Nation in Labrador, Canada - the Kanaks are not asking more than that."

Jacques Boengkih says the government has not provided any support for the landowners in their demands.

Meanwhile, the Green party has challenged claims by a chief that the huge project was good for the territory, saying employment opportunities cannot eliminate the risks with the project.