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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, April 7) - Canadian mining
giant Inco chairman Scott Hand told indigenous Kanak leaders he was willing to
instill "a better relationship" between them and his company’s
US$1.4 billion Goro Nickel mining project.

According to newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, Hand was in
New Caledonia last week to explain why his company "paused" the
project, which he said remained a crucial part of Inco's future global
development strategy.

In the South of the main island, where the project is located,
Hand met disgruntled traditional owners from neighboring Yaté and Mont-Dore, as
well as a "follow-up committee" on the future of the Goro project

The Kanak group recently traveled to the Canadian company’s
headquarters in Toronto to discuss their concerns about the project.

The Kanak leaders also met representatives of the indigenous
Inuit community, which is also dealing with Inco on the Voisey Bay nickel site

After their meeting with the Inuits, the Kanaks said they
believed the Inuits have a much better deal than they they do.

They said they wanted Inco to go back to the negotiation table.

"We are mandated by the High chiefs for the fresh talks.
Some 600 jobs have been frozen in the past weeks. We believe we have been led
on," spokesman and former local government member Raphaël Mapou told RFO.

On Friday, Hand told the indigenous group there was "no
hidden agenda" behind Inco's decision to suspend construction of the
project in November, pending a financial review of the project's skyrocketing

He also reassured that although Inco was also committed to its
other project in Voisey's Bay, this did should not be perceived as a threat to
the Goro project.

"As I have always said, with regards to the current state
of the world nickel market, we need both projects and we will achieve those if
we can afford it," he said, adding the company had already invested some
US$700 million in New Caledonia.

"This provides ample evidence that we are serious about
Goro Nickel and that we regard this project as a foundation of Inco's
development strategy."

He however conceded the project had started too quickly and that
there had not been enough consultation with all the parties concerned in the

The Canadian chairman said the new approach would include a
pilot plant that would be used in Goro to test more economic production
techniques, but also a "new mode of relationship" between Goro Nickel
and local workers and sub-contractors.

The final aim was to avoid "repeated blockades"
experienced in the past twelve months and achieve a "harmonious

Hand also heralded regular meetings with local communities and
Inco's intention to sign a "good neighbourhood agreement" with them.

April 8, 2003

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