A 12 hour long meeting held on December 03, between all the New Caledonia stakeholders involved in the Vale NC takeover, allowed the roadblocks to be suspended until a final solution was found. At this point of time, the buyer of the Brazilian nickel plant Vale is not yet known…
Nothing has been decided about the future of the plant, but the tension has gone down, that’s how the situation could be summarized in a nutshell with regard to the conflict that is currently stirring up Caledonia from North to South and on the islands. The Brazilian company Vale wants to sell its nickel ore processing plant in southern Caledonia. It has granted an exclusivity period to a local consortium, Prony Ressources, associated with a global oil trading giant, Trafigura. This exclusivity was planned to end on December 04, 2020.
A highly political conflict
The customary people of southern Caledonia are firmly opposed to the Trafigura solution. Indeed, Trafigura is more a finance/trading company than an industrial hydrometallurgical specialist and they feel the latter is the most important to save the plant.They absolutely want the factory to be sold to the local group Sofinor associated with a world leading metallurgist, Korea Zinc and do not understand the reason why Vale does not want to consider their initial offer.For more than a fortnight, Sofinor militants have been blocking the factory’s entrances and the port of Noumea. They are also organising roadblocks all over Caledonia. As always in New Caledonia, the conflict started from a technical problem and has now grown very political. The Sofinor belongs to the northern province, which is pro-independence, whereas the south is mainly against the independence of New Caledonia.
Each presented its project
On Thursday 3 December, all the parties concerned gathered around a table for a discussion. The round table was located in the offices of the High Commissioner of the Republic who is the representative of the French State in Caledonia and encompassed all New Caledonia institutions: Congress, Government, Customary senate, French New Caledonia deputees and senators, Mont Dore and Yaté city mayors. Each party was able to present its project to all the stakeholders. The meeting lasted almost 12 hours and it ended around two o’clock in the morning but with a first embryo of consensus.
Nothing has yet been decided.
The supporters of Sofinor-Korea Zinc project were satisfied on certain points. Thus, experts from Korea would be able to visit the site in order to prepare their definitive takeover offer. This was their main request.
The supporters of Prony Ressources project are also reassured, because Sofinor explained that whereas the Company was the one that entered the Consortium with Korea Zinc to answer the take over bid, it is the SPMSC, or an equivalent company where the three provinces of Caledonia (South, North and Islands are represented) that would have 56%. Things have therefore progressed to the point where a first set of common resolutions have been formulated and signed by all parties.
That said, nothing has been settled yet. Another round table is scheduled for next week. We will know more about the choice of the Brazilian group, owner of the 95%, of Vale NC, and that is, at the end of the day… the only one to