15 Sep 2006

Call for New Caledonia Government to seek new partner for northern nickel project

2:59 pm on 15 September 2006

A New Caledonian Kanak USTKE union representative, Pierre Chauvat, says New Caledonia should look for another partner for its northern nickel project.

This comes as the main overseas project partner, Falconbridge of Canada, has been taken over by Swiss-based Xstrata, which has asked the New Caledonian government for time to review plans to build the plant because of higher energy prices.

The New Caledonian government has granted some time, but says it won't wait forever.

The project is aimed at developing the territory's mainly Kanak north in line with the 1998 Noumea accord, and Mr Chauvat says it should not be delayed.

"We should search [an agreement] now with SLN and Eramet. They feel confident about the project if they take the rules of it. But for the moment it is quite early to make any decisions."

Mr Chauvat says the project must go ahead.