New Caledonia's nickel producer SLN and the government of the southern province have signed a partnership agreement centred on giving SLN access to a large nickel ore deposit.
The agreement is for a joint enterprise to exploit the Prony Ouest and Pernod nickel ore deposits and to create a smelter that would match the nickel output of SLN's Noumea plant.
As part of the deal, SLN will invest more than 100 million US dollars for studies of the projects.
SLN's director-general, Pierre Alla, says the allocation of potentially six million tonnes of nickel is significant for the company and allows it to plan for a very long future in New Caledonia.
As the Brazilian miner Vale Inco is about to complete its nickel plant at nearby Goro, Mr Alla says at some stage there may be talk to share some of the infrastructure.