22 Aug 2006

New Caledonian politician urges French role over nickel uncertainty

9:36 am on 22 August 2006

A senior New Caledonian politician, Pierre Frogier, says the French state should be asked to take a key role in the development of the mainly Kanak northern province as uncertainty surrounds the stance of foreign companies in the nickel industry.

Mr Frogier made the comment in an interview with the Noumea daily, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes.

Xstrata of Switzerland has taken over Falconbridge of Canada which has been the partner of the New Caledonian company seeking to build a two-billion US dollar smelter in the north in line with development plans contained in the 1998 Noumea accord.

Mr Frogier says foreign companies are bidding in take-over manoeuvres to create a nickel shortage to maintain record high prices.

He says they have no interest in building the smelter in the north and the territory should no longer subordinate its development plans to the decisions of outsiders.