15 Oct 2015

New Caledonia majority favours more nickel exports

11:34 am on 15 October 2015

New Caledonia's Congress has narrowly backed calls to extend nickel ore exports to China - an issue at the centre of a three-week industrial conflict in August.

Truck blockade lifted temporarily in New Caledonia.

A photo taken on August 19, 2015 in Noumea shows trucks blocking the Riviere Salee roundabout, as truck drivers blocked the different roundabouts leading to the city with 30-tonne trucks on the 15th day of protests against the government concerning the opening of a nickel ore export canal to China. Photo: AFP

In an extraordinary sitting to discuss the policy, 27 members voted for and 25 against, with two abstaining.

The debate was prompted by France, which for the first time invoked its right to summon the territory's legislature to end an impasse between Congress and government leaders.

The decision to change the nickel policy still rests with the collegial government, but a majority in Congress has found that the 2009 mining scheme allows for low grade ore to be exported to China to counter a decline in exports to Australia.

This has been a demand by truck drivers in the industry who blockaded key places across the territory for three weeks in August to back their cause.

Those for the export expansion are the pro-French Republicans and the anti-independence Caledonian Union, who argue that such a change is indispensable to counter the current crisis.

However, the anti-independence Caledonian Together Party as well as the separatist Palika say they should not contribute to a further erosion of the nickel price.

The president of the northern province, Paul Neaoutyine, says once the Chinese get a foothold, they won't let go as seen in Africa.

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