7 Nov 2005

Announcement expected in the next week over French offer to help with New Caledonian nickel plant

7:07 am on 7 November 2005

The Canadian mining company, Falconbridge, is expected to announce in the next week its response to a French government offer to help develop a multi-billion US dollar nickel plant in New Caledonia's north.

This has been disclosed on New Caledonian television by the president of the northern province, Paul Neaoutyine, after talks with representatives from the French government.

The 1998 Bercy Accord for massive French subsidies to build the plant in the mainly Kanak north if financial commitments by the mine developers are made by the end of this year.

Falconbrigde has a 49-percent stake in the venture but last month it was announced the company was merging with another Canadanian mining firm, Inco, which itself has launched a two-billion US dollar nickel project in New Caledonia's south.

The move has created uncertainty as to whether the new Canadian conglomerate will pursue the northern project.

Last Friday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Noumea demanding a stop to the Inco project in the south for environmental reasons while demanding that the northern project be advanced.