SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, July 4) - International nickel stakeholders and scientific experts are gathering later this month in New Caledonia’s capital Nouméa

The five-day seminar, which is scheduled to begin on July 15, will be hosted by French research institute IRD, under the joint chair of the University of New Caledonia (UNC) and the Agronomic Institute of New Caledonia (IAC).

It will focus on a comparative study of nickel mining and its impact on environment. With the theme labeled "Environment preservation in a tropical mining context".

Some 150 researchers, industry representatives and students from 22 countries are expected to attend.

The conference aims at streamlining current research developments, including mineral prospecting and mean to reduce the environmental impact of mineral exploitation on local ecosystems and biodiversity.

New Caledonia holds about a third of the world nickel’s reserves and plans to dramatically increase in production in the coming years, in a bid to capitalise on an expected demand upsurge from such emerging markets as China and India.

French company Eramet's New Caledonia subsidiary, SLN (Société Le Nickel) currently plans to boost its yearly nickel production from the current 57,000 tons per year to 75,000 tons.

This would be achieved with the scheduled opening of a new mining site in Tiébaghi (far North of New Caledonia's main island).

Two other major nickel projects are scheduled to be built in the main island's Northern and Southern parts: the Goro-Nickel project driven by Inco in the South of the main island, has been "paused in November last, due to unexpected capital costs.

The other project is in Koniambo (still at the financial montage stage) by Falconbridge (in the North, in partnership with SMSP, Société Minière du Sud Pacifique, the northern Province's financial arm).

The Koniambo project could, by 2007, produce some 60,000 tons of nickel per year.

The total, a combination of new and upgraded plant projects, is expected to bring New Caledonia's nickel production capacity to a yearly 200,000 tons by 2005.

Participants will visit nickel the Konimabo and Goro projects.

July 7, 2003

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