NEW CALEDONIA’S NICKEL DISPUTE ENDS WITH AGREEMENT

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NEW CALEDONIA’S NICKEL DISPUTE ENDS WITH AGREEMENT

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 16, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---Blockades of ore-carrying vessels supplying the French territory's only smelter ended late Tuesday after an agreement signed by the mining company Société Le Nickel (SLN) and SOENC (Union of Workers and Employees), reported the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes.

SLN and SOENC representatives agreed to a settlement after bargaining with New Caledonian government mediators.

The settlement ends a seven-week long conflict.

The agreement paves the way for the setting up of a "mining commission" within SLN and the cancellation of a restructuring plan.

The plan, which SOENC strongly opposed, promoted cost-cutting measures within SLN and probable sackings.

"I can say we have clearly reached our goal," SOENC Secretary-General Sylvain Néa said after the signing.

Since last month, SOENC had prevented the loading and travel of all nickel ore-carrying vessels from New Caledonia's main mining sites in Kouaoua and Népoui and also blocked the supply of ore to New Caledonia's only smelter of Doniambo, near Noumea.

The smelter, which needs some 9,000 tones of nickel ore to operate normally, was functioning at only 70 percent capacity.

Earlier this week, SLN closed down Népoui and Kouaoua mining sites, saying it could no longer ensure security on the premises.

SLN, which employs close to 2,000 people, is a subsidiary of the French Eramet company.

 

NEW CALEDONIA COMMITTEE TO FIGHT REAL ESTATE PROJECT

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 16, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A group of Noumea residents have set up a "Justice and Citizenship" committee as part of a six-year legal battle against a real estate project promoted by the municipality of the French territory's capital, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

"This foundation aims at providing financial assistance to individuals who are engaged in a dispute against the institutions and cannot afford to pursue the legal procedures," said local Residents’ Association President Bruno Van Peteghem.

The Noumea-promoted complex involves the construction of some 80 apartments, most of which have now been constructed.

But the association obtained the cancellation of the building permits originally granted by Noumea municipality and New Caledonia's Southern Province (where Noumea is located).

In December 1998, Peteghem's house and car were destroyed by a fire.

"The investigation said the fire was accidental and the matter was closed," he said. "But now I don't have any more financial resources to further pursue the matter."

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