6 Apr 2007

Kanaks reject Eramet bid for New Caledonia's northern nickel project

3:10 pm on 6 April 2007

Kanak leaders in New Caledonia's north have rebuffed an offer by the French mining company Eramet to take a key role in the Koniambo nickel project.

This comes after the head of Eramet, Jacques Bacardats, said it had developped a process that was suited for the exploitation of the nickel resources in New Caledonia's north.

But the vice-president of the northern province, Jean-Pierre Djaiwe, says the offer by Eramet is not on the agenda.

Mr Djaiwe has told a local radio station that the project is still being planned with Swiss-based Xstrata.

In 2005, Eramet lost its bid for a key stake in the project to Falconbridge of Canada but subsequently the Canadian share has been bought by Xstrata.

The project is set to cost three-billion US dollar and a decision on its future is now expected in September.

The New Caledonian members of the French legislature as well as the territory's mining minister have welcomed the latest Eramet bid.