26 Nov 2020

Vale sale likely to dominate New Caledonia-France discussions

9:39 am on 26 November 2020

A group of New Caledonia's political leaders will meet with the French Overseas Minister, Sebastien Lecornu, via video link this morning to discuss the country's sovereignty.

Sebastien Lecornu

Sebastien Lecornu Photo: AFP or licensors

However, a topic likely to dominate discussions is the sale of the Vale nickel plant in the south of New Caledonia.

Brazilian-owned Vale is in exclusive negotiations with a French-backed proposal by a new consortium, Prony Resources, after rejecting a planned bid by Sofinor of the Northern Province.

The Prony Resources bid is supported by anti-independence groups but has received strong opposition from pro-independence groups which are backing Sofinor.

The pro-independence groups object to the inclusion of Swiss trading company Trafigura in the Prony Resources consortium.

Today's meeting between the New Caledonian politicians and Lecornu is the first of five meetings scheduled to take place over the coming months to discuss New Caledonia's institutional future.

It is not clear whether the president of the pro-independence Caledonian Union, Daniel Goa, will attend the meeting.

In an open letter, Goa said that the Caledonian Union would not join the discussions until France actively commits to a decolonisation process.

He was referring to what the pro-independence group sees as France's refusal to consider its demands regarding the sale of the Vale nickel plant.

Head of the Caledonian Union, Daniel Goa

Head of the Caledonian Union, Daniel Goa Photo: AFP