20 Jul 2019

New Caledonia leaders worried about SLN

8:25 am on 20 July 2019

New Caledonian political leaders have raised the alarm over the loss-making SLN nickel company which is the biggest private sector employer.

They say it is at risk of closing which they say is not an option.

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Ahead of next week's board meeting of SLN's French parent company, they have decided to set up a committee to co-ordinate efforts to save the plant and the thousands of jobs depending on it.

The politicians at the centre of the initiative are the president Thierry Santa, the president of the southern province Sonia Backes and the mayor of Noumea Sonia Lagarde who want the French state to help.

Mr Santa said the closure of the plant would entail the collapse of New Caledonia's social security system which in itself was already in financial difficulties.

SLN has been losing about $US10 million a month despite some restructuring.

However, further savings will hinge on being able to replace the power plant with a gas-powered unit which is hoped can be achieved by 2023.

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