22 Sep 2014

Vanuatu dismisses nickel plant claim

3:45 pm on 22 September 2014

Vanuatu's Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Ralph Regenvanu has dismissed a report that a major nickel plant is to be built in Santo in the country's north.

A joint venture was signed last week between New Caledonia's MKM company and China's Jin Pei to build the one-billion US dollar plant.

Their reported plan was to mine New Caledonia's low quality ore reserves and ship them to a smelter in Santo.

However Ralph Regenvanu says the government was never approached and has issued no approval.

"I'm the Minister of Mines and the first I heard of this was the report on Radio New Zealand, and the government knows nothing about it. It's not happening, because the government knows nothing about it. So I don't know what they're signing an agreement to do but it's nothing to do with the Vanuatu government, and therefore it's not going to happen."

Ralph Regenvanu says the government would not be interested in such a venture as it could jeopardise Vanuatu's tourism sector.

Santo, Vanuatu

Santo, Vanuatu Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades