13 Jan 2021

Lecornu signals bigger French role in New Caledonia's Vale

11:47 am on 13 January 2021

The French overseas minister Sebastien Lecornu has suggested the French state take a larger role in New Caledonia's Vale nickel, which is at the centre of a disputed sale.

Talks are to resume with New Caledonia's political leaders after last year's planned sale to a new consortium, Prony Resources, was thwarted by protests and arson attacks on the Vale site.

The plant, which is the region's costliest industrial establishment, is being guarded by French security forces as solutions are being sought to allow the plant to be sold and production to be resumed.

Sebastien Lecornu

Sebastien Lecornu Photo: AFP or licensors

Mr Lecornu said France, which has already stepped up with hundreds of millions of dollars in loan and tax concessions, will deepen its involvement if the pro-independence politicians join negotiations on the plant's future.

He went on to say should New Caledonia choose independence from France, Paris would step back from the plant.

Pro-independence parties have been opposed to a Swiss trading company, Trafigura, having any role in Prony Resources.

Opponents of the sale want the Vale asset to go into local ownership.

A photo taken on May 27, 2015 shows Brazilian Vale's nickel processing plant of Goro in southern New Caledonia.

New Caledonia's Vale nickel. Photo: AFP PHOTO / FRED PAYET

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