14 Dec 2005

Paris court puts off crucial ruling on New Caledonia mineral riches

3:18 pm on 14 December 2005

A court in Paris has again deferred a decision on a challenge by the French state-owned company, Eramet, to a nickel project in the north of New Caledonia.

A judgement had been expected overnight but a judge says a ruling will now be made on December 26th.

Eramet wants the rights to a huge and valuable deposit of nickel ore at Koniambo.

The northern provincial government has the rights to the deposit, if it can start building a nickel smelter there before the end of this month.

The northern province says it can go ahead with the nickel smelter in partnership with the Canadian company Falconbridge, which has agreed to pay 2 point 7 billion US dollars to build it.

France has touted the Koniambo project as a way to boost the economy of the underdeveloped mainly Kanak northern province.