8 Feb 2016

France guarantees New Caledonia nickel industry

1:36 pm on 8 February 2016

The French government has agreed to help New Caledonia's nickel sector which has been hit by a sharp drop in the price of nickel.

The undertaking was made in Paris at a meeting of the signatories of the Noumea Accord as they were perparing a referendum on possible independence by 2018.

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said the state would guarantee that the SLN plant in Noumea could continue to operate as producers in the territory recorded losses last year amounting to about one billion US dollars.

The SLN plant's viability also hinges on it getting a new power plant - plans for which have been on hold in the face of the huge losses.

Support is also to be given to the Koniambo plant as it is a pillar of the French policy to rebalance the territory's economy by developing the poorer mainly Kanak northern province.

The three-day Paris talks will be followed by another such summit later this year.

Mr Valls will also visit New Caledonia next month.

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Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades