The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Francois Baroin, says protecting the environment is a priority for nickel projects.
Mr Baroin made the comment in New Caledonia where his is on a four-day visit that includes highlighting the territory's key nickel industry.
He is scheduled to launch the construction of a second smelter in the territory's north today in a project that involved the Canadian mining concern, Falconbridge.
Mr Baroin has also made an inspection of the Goro Nickel project in the territory's south where the French state has made concessions to another Canadian mining concern, Inco.
The project still faces resistance from a local group, Caugern, amid concern by environmentalists over the size and process of the undertaking.
But Mr Baroin says economic development can longer be the enemy of the environment.