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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 15, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---While 98 percent of the individuals questioned say nickel mining is crucial for the Pacific French territory's economy, 90 percent rate industrial risks an "important" concern.

Another 62 percent say those risks are "not controlled," according to an opinion poll published by the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes.

The poll, which Les Nouvelles commissioned the Louis Harris research organization to conduct, follows recent announcements that two of the world's nickel mining giants, Inco and Falconbridge, both Canadian, will be setting up new nickel mines, one in the north, another in the south of New Caledonia.

The poll shows that concerns are especially widespread in areas of the French territory where the environment is still pristine, or where major nickel-related developments are yet to take place.

Risks are linked to the processing method used by companies. Smelters used by the existing Société Le Nickel (SLN) company and Falconbridge's northern project produce toxic (sulfur dioxide) emissions.

SLN announced this week it would invest another forty billion French Pacific Francs (over 300 million U.S. dollars) between 2004 and 2009, in order to reach a yearly nickel production of 75,000 tons.

The poll was conducted between July 16 and 20 on a sample of 300 individuals over 20 years of age.

Other poll findings: an interest in the government doing more for the development of tourism (77 percent) and agriculture (57 percent).

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