Noumea blockades caused by ore export differences
There have been major disruptions to traffic in Noumea due to major protests by truck drivers related to New Caledonia's nickel mining industry.
There have been major disruptions to traffic in Noumea due to protests by truck drivers related to New Caledonia's nickel mining industry.
The drivers attached to the nickel mining contractor union, ContraKmine, established initial blockades two weeks ago but stepped up their protest this week.
They are upset about a decision by New Caledonia's committee for external mining trade not to approve a number of applications to export low grade ore to China.
Johnny Blades has been following the story:
JOHNNY BLADES: The requests were submitted last month by SLN, which is the veteran mining company in the territory, and several small miners - whom the truck drivers are contracted to. They submitted around four requests to the committee for external mining trade. That committee is made up of the territory's president, the three Provincial Presidents, two mining contractors and the SLN. The institutional presidents in this case all voted against these requests for exports or low grade ore to China.
KORO VAKA'UTA: So, the New Caledonia government is against exports to China?
JB: Well, in this case it is. However SLN and the small miners disagree with any suggestion that exports of low grade iron ore to China might be inconsistent with New Caledonia's framework policy on mining which is six or so years old now.
KV: With the global commodity slump, the small miners are obviously hurting, they want to sell product where ever they can?
JB: Yes, that's right. They argue that the opening of a new export channel to China is the best way to maintain their activity during the downturn. But the Caledonia Together-led government seems to have other ideas about the territory's nickel strategy in general - ideas quite different to the rest of the loyalist side of New Caledonia's political landscape. They appear to be prioritising moves to assert more local control of the all-important nickel industry. Quite how that relates to low grade ore exports, I don't know but their critics sort of seem to be saying the government is favouring the SMSP ventures in the territory's north and the joint venture deals that they have already established with overseas partners. At any rate, the territory's president Phillipe Germain says the issue of exports to China needs more debate and discussion. But it seems like the divisions over the territory's nickel strategy are deep and there's likely to be more political conflict over it in the near future.
Meanwhile, talks between the union, New Caledonia's government and the French High Commissioner have restarted today in an attempt to resolve the surrounding dispute.
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