INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE INTO CAUSE OF NEW CALEDONIA HELICOPTER CRASH KILLING

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (November 30, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Investigations are continuing into the cause of a helicopter crash in New Caledonia Tuesday which claimed the lives of seven people, including senior executives of the SMSP nickel mining company.

Among those killed was 40-year-old Raphael Pidjot, the President of SMSP and Pierre Thollot, a biologist with Falconbridge Nouvelle Calédonie.

The helicopter went down in a remote area while on a flight from the capital, Nouméa, to the Nakety Nickel Project on the east coast of the island.

There was bad weather in the area when contact was lost with the helicopter.

Persisting bad weather in the area has hampered rescue helicopters from reaching the crash site in the rugged, mountainous center of the New Caledonia mountain chain.

The French High Commission in New Caledonia said a full investigation is being conducted into the crash.

SMSP is the top exporter of nickel from New Caledonia, which has close to a third of the world reserves of the mineral.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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