28 Oct 2015

New Caledonia nickel policy decried

4:12 pm on 28 October 2015

New Caledonia's anti-independence Republicans have condemned the government's decision to allow only one company to export low-grade nickel ore to China.

It says this is a denial of democracy, putting at risk hundreds of jobs and a part of the economy.

The collegial government considered four applications but only authorised the company MKM to sell 300,000 tonnes of ore in the next 18 months.

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

The MKM bid was successful because of the support of the ministers of the pro-independence Caledonian Union, who abstained from endorsing the other three bids.

Two weeks ago, the territory's Congress narrowly backed calls to extend nickel ore exports to China - an issue at the centre of a three-week industrial conflict in August.

The nickel price has more than halved since early 2011, prompting calls to find new markets while others want to limit sales to hike the price.

Politicians in Noumea fear that industry-wide losses will this year exceed one billion US dollars, with setbacks affecting not only the territory's three smelters but also subcontractors.

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