Time appears to have run out for legal action against the Vale New Caledonia nickel company in New Caledonia.
The company, formerly known as Vale Inco, has been strongly criticised by the New Caledonian government and environmental groups following a massive acid spill in April last year.
The leak killed thousands of fish and affected the World Heritage protected Prony Bay during a test run of Vale New Caledonia's new facility.
Noumea's daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes reports that the southern provincial government failed to heed numerous warnings from prosecutors that the end of the one-year limitation period for any action was dangerously close.
Environmental groups say they deplore the lack of response from provincial authorities.