9 Nov 2005

New Caledonia's SLN surprised at reported extension of Bercy accord

4:18 pm on 9 November 2005

The head of New Caledonia's SLN nickel company, Luc Auffret, has expressed surprise at French press reports that the northern project could be delayed by six months.

The paper, les Echos, reported that the French government has written to the Canadian company Falconbridge offering it a six-month extension to decide whether it wants to build the nickel plant in New Caledonia's north.

Falconbridge is part of the so-called 1998 Bercy accord which stipulates that Falconbridge will get a huge nickel ore deposit in the north if there is a financial commitment to build the plant.

But Mr Auffret says he doesn't know on what basis this extension of the agreement is reportedly being altered.

The accord also says that should Falconbridge and its majority partner, SMSP, fail to meet the December the 31st deadline, the ore will be returned to the French state-owned Eramet concern which is SLN's parent company.

Falconbridge is in merger talks with Inco of Canada that itself has a huge project in New Caledonia's south.

Meanwhile, the French construction company VINCI has won a 350 million US dollar contract in New Caledonia.

VINCI is to build part of the Goro nickel project in the territory's south.

Work is to start this month and last for 16 months, employing about 200 people