16 Nov 2006

New Caledonia's Frogier says Eramet should develp Koniambo

5:20 pm on 16 November 2006

The leader of New Caledonia's anti-independence Rassemblement-UMP Party, Pierre Frogier, says the French government should give the planned nickel smelter in the territory's north to the French conglomerate Eramet and its subsidiary, SLN.

Mr Frogier, who is also a member of the French assembly, says progress on the so-called Koniambo project is too slow.

The plant has been conceived as a way to boost the economic development of the mainly Kanak north but the project has ben subject to changes.

The majority stakeholder is the local SMSP company which had entered a deal with Falconbridge of Canada which was about to merge with another Canadian company, Inco.

But this year, the planned merger fell through as Inco was bought by CVRD of Brazil and Falconbridge was taken over by Xstrata of Switzerland.

The Koniambo project is being held up as Xstrata is reassessing its costs.