3 Nov 2014

New Caledonia uproar over mine deal probe

8:14 pm on 3 November 2014

The new president of New Caledonia's southern province, Philippe Michel, may bring a defamation case after an inquiry into a nickel ore deal was cut short amid allegations of fake documents.

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Photo: Province Sud

A pre-election MOU between the province and Eramet of France as well as Vale of Brazil provided for a four-year study of the Prony and Pernod deposits in the south of the main island, with a view to a possible new nickel plant.

Mr Michel cancelled the MOU when he was elected, sayings the deal was illegal on several counts and included a secret section approved by his predecessor, Cynthia Ligeard.

She in turn called for an inquiry and at the start of a hearing on Friday, her former advisor Alban Tremblier refused to answer questions, saying the tabled MOU was a fake.

Mr Michel is now considering lodging a defamation case.

The cancelled deal provided for a joint venture company, in which the provincial government would have been the biggest shareholder, to examine estimates that the deposits contain three million tonnes of nickel that could be mined over 50 years.