6 Mar 2019

SLN a focus of New Caledonia political debate

2:15 pm on 6 March 2019

A war of words has erupted among New Caledonia's politicians over the territory's key SLN nickel company where a partial strike is entering its third month.

SLN smelter in Noumea

SLN smelter in Noumea Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

The president of the northern province Paul Neaoutyne has rejected comments by the anti-independence camp that his pro-independence side was ready to sacrifice 800 jobs at the SLN smelter in Noumea.

Mr Neaoutyne has also rejected claims that the pro-independence parties want SLN's demise to obtain its ore in order to supply plants owned by the northern province's SMSP nickel concern.

He said the strategy should be for New Caledonia to be a nickel producer and not an ore exporter.

Philippe Gomes of the centrist anti-independence Caledonia Together Party said SLN's precarious situation dates back to 2012 when a US$1 billion in dividends was disbursed.

He said his party was alone in opposing such spending.

Mr Gomes said SLN should be supplying offshore plants which have interests in New Caledonia rather than simply exporting the ore.

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