There have been mixed messages from the French mining conglomerate, Eramet, about Swiss miner Xstrata's position on New Caledonia's so-called northern project.
A statement by Eramet says Xstrata has to express its commitment that it will use the Koniambo nickel reserves to build a smelter in the north.
This comes just days after the head of Eramet, Patrick Buffet, said that he didn't want to interfere in the matter.
Xstrata is expected to announce within weeks whether it will proceed with plans to build a smelter in the mainly Kanak north.
It took over the project from Falconbridge of Canada after a 1998 deal forced Eramet to cede the Koniambo reserves to a company in the northern province.