4 Dec 2020

Tension eases following second round table on Vale sale

6:16 pm on 4 December 2020

In New Caledonia, tension surrounding the sale of the Vale nickel plant has eased following a second round table discussion by key political, traditional, and institutional players.

After a decade of technical and financial difficulties and conflicts with the local population, the plant had hoped to return to profits in 2015.

A photo taken on May 27, 2015 shows Brazilian Vale's nickel processing plant of Goro in southern New Caledonia. Photo: AFP PHOTO / FRED PAYET

The talks aimed to find a solution to months of tension which began when a bid by Sofinor, from the pro-independence Northern province in partnership with Korea Zinc, was rejected by Brazilian-owned Vale.

Vale is in exclusive negotiations with Prony Resources, a consortium comprising of Swiss-based Trafigura and various New Caledonian backers.

For several weeks now, supporters of the Sofinor bid have organised protests around the country including strikes and blockades.

Participants at the round table talks, organised by the French Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu, have identified a number of key points for further discussion.

The key points included the New Caledonian shareholding, industrial partnerships, an assessment of the Vale plant by Korea Zinc, and the publication of an expert report on the tailings dam at the Vale plant site.

The success of the agreement depends on whether Vale and Prony Resources are willing to delay signing an agreement on the sale.

Vale was set to announce its decision on the sale shortly.

Supporters of the Sofinor bid have agreed to suspend all protest actions for the duration of the discussions.