7 Apr 2005

Planned New Caledonia nickel project is going ahead despite case of sour grapes

6:57 pm on 7 April 2005

The planned nickel development at Koniambo in the mainly Kanak Northern Province of New Caledonia is still going ahead despite assertions from a rival nickel company that the project is not viable.

SLN, which runs a smelter as part of the French Eramet group, made the comments after a feasibility study showed 2.2 billion US dollars would be required for the project, an increase of almost 40 percent from the previous estimate of 1.6 billion.

Several hundred people in New Caledonia took to the streets last weekend to demonstrate against SLN.

Communications Manager for SMSP, Stephane Camerlynck, which has a 51 percent stake in Koniambo says increased Chinese demand for nickel means the project is still profitable.

Mr Camerlynck, says SLN's objections are an attempt to get Koniambo back.

"The Koniambo used to belong to SLN. They were saying there were only 780 thousand tonnes of nickel on it. We found nearly 4 million tonnes of nickel on it. They've made a mistake seven years ago and now they'd like to be able to erase this mistake and gain back the Koniambo."

Stephane Camerlynck