23 Nov 2018

New Caledonia mine attack condemned

9:44 am on 23 November 2018

There has been widespread condemnation in New Caledonia of the latest arson attack at the SLN nickel company's mining site in Kouaoua.

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Fifteen trucks and the site's conveyor belt system were badly damaged in the fires lit in the night between Wednesday and Thursday.

The government said this went beyond any social or environmental claim and had become an unjustifiable criminal activity.

It called for those responsible for the fires to be arrested and brought to justice.

The biggest party, Caledonia Together, said the fire was the work of a criminal gang determined to rule with terror.

The Rassemblement questions the point of discussing economic development in the face of sabotage carried out with impunity.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Walter Zweifel

The attack came just over a week after dozens of police expelled a group of local men blocking access to the site three weeks ago.

The mining site had already been closed for more than two months from early August but an agreement had been reached in late October for operations to resume.

The belt system feeds nickel ore to the coast for shipping to the SLN smelter in Noumea, with the Kouaoua mine providing about 40 percent of SLN's ore.

The earlier blockade is estimated to have incurred losses of almost $US20 million to SLN which has been operating at a loss.

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