8 Dec 2005

Biggest demonstration ever planned in New Caledonia on Saturday for nickel project

4:32 pm on 8 December 2005

20,000 people are expected to take to the streets of New Caledonia at the weekend to highlight concern over the uncertain future of a major nickel project in the Northern Province.

The USTKE union spokesman, Pierre Chauvat, says they want to see the Koniambo nickel mine project to be set up in the northern province.

The project had been described as a priority by the French president to rebalance the territory's economy.

But now the Canadian mining company Falconbridge has said it cannot agree to the finance terms set by France.

Urgent talks are being held in Paris between the French government and the president of New Caledonia's northern province, Paul Neaoutyine.

But Mr Chauvat says the problem stems from France wanting to keep control over the New Caledonian economy.

"France is still acting like a colonist country. You know, Koniambo is a very big project and I understand that France and the state don't want the north province to get hold of this big mine because that means that Kanaks can rule the country economically and it can lead to independence, and I understand that France doesn't agree with this position."