11 May 2021

Charges laid over New Caledonia's Vale unrest

3:48 pm on 11 May 2021

Charges have been laid against six Kanak leaders in connection with last December's violence at the Vale nickel plant in New Caledonia.

Opponents of the proposed sale of the Vale NC plant display independent Kanak flags on a filter dam on the outskirts of the agglomeration of Noumea.

The sale of the Vale nickel plant led to days of unrest in New Caledonia last December. Photo: Théo Rouby / Hans Lucas

The leaders of the Rheebu Nuu group and the indigenous Kanak umbrella organisation, which were opposed to Vale's original sale plan, were charged after being held and interrogated for 96 hours as investigators tried to establish their roles in organising the unrest.

Their organisations held repeated demonstrations against the sale last year, culminating in days of clashes at the Vale site, which left dozens of police officers injured and caused damage to the plant estimated at $US150 million.

The six are being probed for alleged participation in a criminal organisation, theft, destruction of property and violence against police.

They are free on bail, which was lowered to $US10,000 after the prosecutor first asked for it to be set at $US200,000 per person.

If tried and convicted, they could face up to 10 years in jail.

Among the six suspects is a former government minister Raphael Mapou whose brother Louis is a pro-independence candidate for the vacant post of president of the New Caledonian government.