The Goro nickel company in New Caledonia has suspended work to build its smelter in the south of the main island for at least six months.
The head of Goro Nickel says this will allow the main stakeholder, Inco of Canada, to review its partnership with Sumitomo of Japan, which was to provide a quarter of the capital.
The news agency, AFP, says costs to complete the project are now estimated to have risen a further 500 million US dollars to two billion dollars.
All foreign specialist workers are being withdrawn from the site and the first batch of workers from the Philippines, who arrived two weeks ago, have gone home.
In September, work at the site was suddenly stopped for two weeks amid a series of protests, but Goro Nickel said the suspension was planned to allow a review of the project.