2 Jun 2014

Conditional approval for re-opening of Vale nickel plant

7:11 am on 2 June 2014

The government of New Caledonia's southern province has given the conditional approval for the Vale nickel plant to resume operations.

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Photo: Province Sud

Work at the site in Goro was suspended almost month ago after yet another acid spill into the environment, which led to days of violent protests near Noumea amid calls for the six-billion US dollar plant to be shut for good.

A week ago, three police suffered gunshot injuries trying to clear roadblocks and unidentified people vandalised Vale equipment and offices, causing more than 30 million US dollars in damage.

The province's president, Philippe Michel, says the plant can reopen on condition that safety standards be improved.

An investigation found shortcomings in the warning system and the way staff handled the situation.

As last month's spill was the seventh since 2009 there has been a growing chorus calling for the plant to be closed and Mr Michel says a study has been commissioned to establish the socio-economic impact of a possible shut-down.

The Vale plant, which is geared to produce 60,000 tonnes of nickel a year, employs about 3,500 people directly and indirectly.