A court in Noumea has annulled the transfer of a massive deposit of ore in the south of New Caledonia to the Canadian nickel company, Inco.
The court ruled that the government of the southern province had failed to meet the pre-condition of consulting the mining council and others before giving the Prony deposit to Inco at the end of 2003.
The transfer was authorised by the then administration of the anti-independence RPCR Party which was ousted in elections in May last year.
The Future Together Party, which has replaced the RPCR as the territory's dominant political force, objected to giving Inco millions of tonnes of nickel at Prony.
The ruling comes as Inco has invested hundreds of millions into the Goro nickel project in the area.
Inco is in the process of merging with another Canadian mining company, Falconbridge, which is a partner in another huge nickel mining project in the territory's north.