The opponents of the Trafigura project to take over the Vale nickel factory in southern New Caledonia do not disarm. After the blocking of Noumea’s main access road yesterday morning, they have blocked the entrance of the local government today morning, November 17.
An estimated 500 people moved in at 6 AM to prevent any access to the government building through the main gate. The weekly government meeting with the High Commissioner of the Republic (representative of the French State in New Caledonia) is to be held every tuesday but has, thus, been cancelled.
Meeting with the government
After the intervention of the gendarmes with tear gas bombs, the demonstrators retreated but remained a few meters away all morning. And asked for a meeting with the government.
It should be remembered that the demonstrators are mostly customary people supported by pro-independence political parties. They are against the sale of the Vale factory in Southern New Caledonia to a foreign group.
The Brazilian group Vale, the factory’s current owner, wants to sell it to Trafigura, a Swiss company which does not deal with metallurgy but oil trading.
Stock market coup
The demonstrators grouped in two associations (the Ican – a customary entity – and the collective named “Southern factory=Home factory) suspect Trafigura of planning to make a stock market coup. They prefer the factory to be bought by a local group, the local Sofinor, which already controls two nickel factories (one in South Korea and one in northern New Caledonia).
In the Vale project, the Sofinor is in association with the korean metallurgist Korea Zinc. The two companies have made a takeover proposal which was refused by Vale.
Factory, mine and port blocked
The demonstration in front of the government is only one aspect of the mobilization. Demonstrators have been blocking the port of Nouméa since the end of last week. With Christmas holidays and New Year celebrations approching, it begins to be problematic for businesses and merchants.
Since the blockade started, only fresh products leave the port. And the accesses to the factory plant, the mine and the port – in southern New Caledonia – are also closed since last week.
The demonstrators said they are determined and had announce that they will go all the way. The end being the withdrawal of Trafigura.