20 Jul 2009

New Caledonia's Kanak activist group challenges nickel company to comply with agreement

10:15 am on 20 July 2009

New Caledonia's Kanak activist group, Rheebu Nuu, has threatened to walk away from last year's landmark deal with the Vale Inco nickel company, unless the company changes its attitude and complies with the terms it had agreed to.

The two sides approved a development plan last September, ending years of acrimony and intermittent violence that hampered the construction of the multi-billion dollar plant.

A Rheebu Nuu leader, Raphael Mapou, has said in an interview with Noumea's daily newspaper, that Vale Inco has been given until the end of September to allow Rheebu Nuu to join the plant's commissioning phase with technicians who can verify the process.

This comes after a major acid spill into a river during tests in April,

which Mr Mapou says was being downplayed by Vale Inco and only got to the attention of the authorities because they were notified by the Rheebu Nuu president.

Mr Mapou says the ball is now in Vale Inco's court if it wants to prevent an end of their deal, which he says could see Rheebu Nuu resume its actions.

The launch of the plant, which is Brazil's biggest foreign investment,

was due in the middle of this year but has again been delayed.