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SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, June 17) - New Caledonia's
anti-independence politician Jacques Lafleur has described the French Pacific
territory's potential for nickel development as something that could place New
Caledonia and France on the same footing as Hawaii and the United states, Les
Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Lafleur, who has just returned from debates in the French
National Assembly, told a press conference that investments in nickel projects
in New Caledonia, totaling US$4.5 billion in the next few years, would enable
New Caledonia to be ready to supply such emerging markets as China and India.

"This is a total population of some 2.5 million people. And
we are going to become the suppliers for these expanding nations," he said.

Last week, New Caledonia's President and member of the French
Lower House, the National Assembly, Pierre Frogier, spoke in similar terms.

While stressing New Caledonia was "lucky to have major
natural resources such as nickel, a third of the world's reserves," he also
pointed out that there was potential for fossil oil exploration and revenues,
somewhere between New Caledonia and Australia.

New Caledonia's new nickel projects are joint ventures between
local institutions and two Canadian companies, Inco and Falconbridge. One is in
the North of the main island, the other in the South.

But the Inco project is currently undergoing a major review, due
to unforeseen costs and is at present halted.

Frogier however assured that once completed, these projects
would bring New Caledonia's total nickel production to 250,000 tons per year.

An existing smelter in Doniambo operated by French company
Société Le Nickel, a subsidiary of French Eramet, is also planned to be
upgraded and boost its production by 25 percent.

"This will make us one of the major world nickel
producers," he said, noting, "we are close to emerging markets such as
China and India."

Frogier also told French members of parliament Pacific island
states were "sinking into anarchy" and that New Caledonia was all the
more privileged.

"We have the ambition, with the help of the French
President, of the French government to ensure New Caledonia does France

"We've had the political intelligence to choose the path of
reconciliation and peace. This has already been recognized and hailed. And
tomorrow, I firmly believe, New Caledonia's economic development will be the
envy of the whole Pacific," Frogier said.

June 18, 2003

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