Plans are taking shape for a joint venture between New Caledonia's SMSP mining company and China's biggest nickel producer, Jinchuan.
The planned project is similar to the one SMSP set up with South Korea's Cosco company in 2008, under which New Caledonian ore is shipped to Asia.
The head of SMSP, Andre Dang, and the president of the northern province, Paul Neaoutyine, have returned from Sydney where they held talk with Jinchaun executives and signed a memorandum of understanding.
Noumea's daily newspaper says a joint venture agreement could be drawn up by the end of this year.
The paper says the venture is expected to give SMSP a 51-percent stake but adds that this may not comply with Chinese rules.