The owners of New Caledonia's Koniambo nickel project say the new plant is expected to be completed to start production in the first half of 2012.
Dominique Dionne, who is the vice-president of Xstrata Nickel, says 60 percent of the plant in the territory's north has been built.
The first of 17 Chinese-built modules making up the smelter is due within two weeks.
Mr Dionne says 2,300 people are currently employed at the site, with another 4,000 workers expected to join next year at the peak of the construction phase.
The project is estimated to cost just under four billion US dollars.
The Koniambo project is majority-owned by SMSP, a company run by the pro-independence northern province.