14 Sep 2002

Work on New Caledonian nickel plant to remain suspended for up to 15 days

9:07 am on 14 September 2002

The head of the Goro Nickel company in New Caledonia says work on the nickel plant will restart in 10 to 15 days.

Pierre Alla made the disclosure after the company on Tuesday withdrew its foreign staff from the site where a one-point-four billion US dollar smelter is to be built.

Mr Alla says the suspension was made to, as he put it, resynchronise the work on the site and followed a visit to New Caledonia by Inco's president, Scott Hand.

He says there had been a growing discrepancy between the planning office and work executed on the ground.

The move put hundreds of people out of work, with many workers of local subcontractors now on forced leave.

Although no announcement had been made, Mr Alla says a pause had been planned but was brought forward by action of disgruntled people who last weekend blocked access to Goro.

He says the reorientation is aimed to avoid a repeat of the blockades which are linked to communication problems with the New Caledonian sub-contractors, the unions and Melanesian environmentalists.

Meanwhile, a spokeman for the Usoenc union, Didier Guenant, says a simple demonstration cannot be used as a pretext to shut down all operations.

And he has called on Inco to stop threatening workers for wanting to be part of unions.

A silent march is being planned for Monday, with one worker saying they don't want either the unions nor a political party at it.