The New Caledonian government has approved a request by the SLN nickel company to export four million tonnes of nickel ore a year for ten years.
SLN, which is New Caledonia's biggest private sector employer, has been running at a loss but has survived thanks to huge loans three years ago from its French parent company Eramet and the French government.
The sale of ore from its mines to Japan and China is expected to boost SLN's revenues as it implements a restructure aimed at reducing the costs of producing nickel.
The pro-independence members of the collegial government opposed SLN's bid, arguing that high quality ore should be processed in New Caledonia and not abroad.
However, their policy is for low grade nickel ore to be used at smelters abroad where New Caledonian interests hold a majority.
Earlier this month, the head of Eramet warned that SLN was on track to bankruptcy next year if it failed to stem its losses.