SOCIÉTÉ LE NICKEL MINING COMPANY HALTS WORK AT NEW CALEDONIA MININGSITES

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SOCIÉTÉ LE NICKEL MINING COMPANY HALTS WORK AT NEW CALEDONIA MINING SITES

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 11, 2000 - Oceania Flash/SPC) - New Caledonia's biggest mining company, Société le Nickel (SLN), on Friday ordered the temporary closure of its two main mining sites in the north of the French territory because of an industrial action which started six weeks ago, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported Saturday.

Late in January, SOENC (Workers and Employees Union) started a protest action over rejection of a SLN restructuring plan, which implied probable cuts in the current workforce.

Union members prevented the loading of nickel ore cargo at New Caledonia's only smelter in Doniambo (near Noumea).

The action, which ended for a brief period last month, resumed a week ago.

Ore-carrying vessels were blocked again and stopped from being loaded.

Work stopped at both the Kouaoua and Népoui mining sites, because SLN said they couldn't ensure that security precautions could be enforced.

The latest decision, which was made at an extraordinary SLN meeting on Friday, involves the temporary unemployment of some 200 workers at both mining sites.

Earlier in the week, a Court ordered the lifting of the union-organized blockade at Népoui and free access restored.

On Friday, SLN mining director Christophe Thomas went to Kouaoua to meet the strikers and try to release the ore-carrying vessel Mariana, which has been stranded there for a week with 8,000 tons of nickel ore on board.

But he was told he was "persona non grata" by SOENC Secretary General Sylvain Néa.

SLN and SOENC held a series of talks this week, but couldn't come to any agreement on a possible end of the conflict.

SLN estimated it has so far lost close to two billion French Pacific Francs (about US$ 20 million) because of the strike and blockades.

The New Caledonian government, at its weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday, appointed a team of conciliators, Philippe Gomes and Aukusitino Manuohalalo.

Néa, while announcing the resumption of more radical action by his union, pledged to "drip-feed" SLN's smelter, which needs at least 9,000 tons of ore per day to function normally, at the bare minimum.

The Doniambo smelter currently is functioning at only 70% of its capacity.

 

NEW CALEDONIAN, FIJIAN ARMED FORCES COMMANDERS TO SIGN MOU AHEAD OF JOINT NAVAL EXERCISE

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 11, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonian Armed Forces (FANC) Commander General Xavier de Zuchowisz is scheduled to arrive in the neighboring Fiji Islands for a three-day official trip Monday which will lead to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fiji Army, the French Embassy in Suva said Friday in a release.

Two-star general Xavier André Stanislas De Zuchowisz, who arrived in New Caledonia last August as the new head of the FANC, was formerly the deputy head of French President Jacques Chirac’s private État-Major at the Élysée Palace in Paris for three years, a position that allowed him to meet the French Head of State on a daily basis.

"Jacques Chirac told me it was wonderful here," he said upon taking up his position in New Caledonia last year.

During his stay in Fiji, De Zuchowisz is to sign on Monday a Memorandum of Understanding with Royal Fijian Armed Forces Commander Fred Baininarama.

The MOU involves not only New Caledonia and Fiji, but also Tonga’s armed forces.

The three armies' naval wings (including Fiji's patrol boat "Kula") are to take part in a joint military exercise shortly in the French territory's waters.

The general's visit coincides with the courtesy call in Suva of the New Caledonian-based patrol boat "La Moqueuse," a 55-meter (181.5 feet)-long vessel with 31 men on board under the command of Vessel Lieutenant Loïc Poumellec.

La Moqueuse arrived in Suva on Saturday and will leave on Tuesday.

De Zuchowicz arrives on Monday and returns to Noumea on Wednesday.

 

16,824 VESSELS REGISTERED IN NEW CALEDONIA

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 9, 2000 0 Oceania Flash/SPC)---Some 16,824 vessels, mainly yachts, are currently registered in New Caledonia, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

According to the latest statistics released by the Maritime Affairs Department of New Caledonia, there has been a regular increase in the number of registration, which has doubled in the past ten years.

The statistics exclude military ships, the study notes.

 

AIR CALÉDONIE INTERNATIONAL TO GET ITS SECOND PLANE LATER THIS MONTH

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 9, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---Air Calédonie International (AirCalin)'s second plane, an Airbus A-310, is to be delivered on March 26 and make its first commercial flight to Osaka on April 2, a destination it will serve twice a week, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The move is expected to increase the number of Japanese tourist arrivals into the French territory, AirCalin human resources manager Didier Tappero said.

In an interview with Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, Tappero admitted that, in its first few months, this route could lose money, but its introduction "comes within a comprehensive context of tourism industry development," he said.

"In Japan, New Caledonia as a destination is well-regarded. We have a good image, even if the blockades at Tontouta (New Caledonia's only international airport) didn't really help.

"We shouldn't have this sort of situation too often, because each time, our reputation suffers," he said.

The new service is designed to meet the particular needs of some segments of the market, like honeymooners.

"The first flight leaves Noumea on Monday at one a.m. It gets to Osaka at 7:40 p.m. So for those Japanese tourists arriving back home, they can start their week's work straightaway.

The plane flies back to New Caledonia in the evening of the same day it arrives in Osaka.

The second flight leaves Noumea on Friday night and flies back Saturday night.

The increased service also will allow AirCalin to boost flights to its Auckland, Sydney, Papeete and Wallis destinations.

"This is a great relief to our Boeing 737 and this will add flexibility for possible additional or chartered flights."

AirCalin currently has only one Boeing 737, with a seating capacity of a maximum 126.

The Airbus, which was purchased from Swissair, carries 201 passengers including 18 in business class.

It is to make its inaugural flight to Osaka on March 30.

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