18 Jun 2018

Man charged after New Caledonia mining site fire

8:10 pm on 18 June 2018
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Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

A man has been arrested in New Caledonia accused of setting a fire at the Kouaoua mining site a week ago.

The prosecutor says the 31-year--old was detained in Kouaoua and reportedly said he had acted alone.

The fire damaged the belt system which feeds nickel ore to the coast for shipping to the SLN nickel smelter in Noumea.

It was the fourth such incident in a year, causing substantial material damage each time and interrupting operations for days while repairs are made.

According to reports, the detained man is not suspected of being involved in the previous fires.

He is to be tried on Tuesday and risks being jailed for up to 10 years.

In the past, the mayor of Kouaoua implored locals to break the code of silence and help catch those who keep setting fire to the 11 kilometre conveyor belt system.

SLN, which is New Caledonia's biggest private employer, has been running at a loss.