22 Nov 2005

New Caledonian leader says two major nickel projects too much at once

4:28 pm on 22 November 2005

The president of New Caledonia's southern province, Philippe Gomes, says it is neither possible nor desirable to have two major nickel projects started at the same time.

Mr Gomes made the comment on local television as uncertainty continues over the project in the territory's north whose stakeholder, Falconbridge of Canada, is in merger talks with another Canadian company, Inco.

The two projects involve planned investments of about 5 billion US dollars.

Mr Gomes says with Inco's project under way, the northern project may have to be delayed by two years.

Mr Gomes has meanwhile welcomed yesterday's court ruling which annulled the 2003 transfer of the Prony nickel ore deposit in the south to Inco.

The transfer was made by the previous government despite claims by opponents, including Mr Gomes and his political allies, that it had ignored the proper procedure.

The Rassemblement-UMP government, which pushed through the transfer, has declined to comment on the court ruling.