7 Mar 2006

French minister lays first stone in New Caledonia nickel plant

9:34 am on 7 March 2006

The French minister for overseas territories, Francois Baroin, has put the first stone in place for the building of a new nickel factory in northern New Caledonia.

The president of the Canadian nickel mining firm, Falconbridge, Aaron Regent, took part in the ceremony at Vavouto, along with many local dignitaries.

Mr Baroin says the construction symbolises all their hopes of a new era, and the source of expected social and economic development.

The Koniambo project is 49 per cent owned by Falconbridge and 51 per cent owned by the nickel mining arm of the northern provincial government.

It's to employ 250 staff, and construction is set to cost US$2.2 billion.

The processing plant is expected to open in four years' time, with an annual production of 60,000 tonnes of nickel, benefiting from one of the world's largest deposits of nickel.