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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, August 26) – The French government plans to set up a research center in New Caledonia to monitor the impact of nickel mining in the Pacific region.

The research center plans were announced by France’s Minister for Research and New Technology Francois Daubert, who was sent by French President Jacque Chirac to attend the Noumea science conference.

Daubert told journalists that a "substantial" budget would be made available in 2005 by the Chirac administration for the setting up of the research center.

Daniel Constantin, a French government representative, said the proposed center would assist greatly in post-mining rehabilitation.

"We must work beyond today," Constantin told reporters covering a four-day symposium on French scientific research in the Pacific that opened on Tuesday in Noumea. "Once we extract the nickel, we will need to restore the landscape," he said.

While New Caledonia is home to the world’s largest deposit of nickel, which is basically the mainstay of the territory’s economy, Papua New Guinea’s world class Ramu nickel and cobalt project currently at pre-feasibility stage is yet to be developed.

Nickel is extracted through the open-cut mining method, and its impact on the environment is also being discussed in this week’s symposium.

Constantin acknowledged nickel mining in New Caledonia would continue for some time, given that deposits deemed uneconomical to mine today could be feasible to excavate later.

"The proposed research center brings in a new way of working, where we will try to apply research into the operations of the mine company," he said.

Over 400 scientists and researchers from mainland France, as well as those based in its Pacific territories of French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia are attending the symposium.

Representatives of the science community in Australia and New Zealand are also in the meeting as well as a number of scientists and academics from the Fiji-based University of the South Pacific.

August 27, 2004

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