Corporate buyout threatens civil war in New Caledonia – by Hamish McDonald (Asia Times – December 8, 2020)


SYDNEY – As a long-running struggle between indigenous Kanaks seeking independence and well-off mostly white settlers wanting to stay with France nears its end-game in the South Pacific colony of New Caledonia, the ownership of its nickel industry has become a violent contest between the two camps.

This week, its capital Noumea – in pre-Covid times a languid tropical resort center where locals of all races played pétanque in its squares – was shrouded in black smoke from burning tires and cars as Kanak protestors set up barricades and police fired tear gas.

Dozens of protesters were arrested, and several police officers injured, Radio New Zealand reported.

The protest was part of a fight over New Caledonia’s rich nickel mining and processing industry. With 33 mines, the island is the world’s fourth-biggest nickel ore producer, and its three refineries make it the seventh biggest nickel metal producer.

The owner of the largest ore and metal producer, Brazilian mining giant Vale, wants out after racking up billions of dollars in losses from buying in at the wrong time in market cycles and poor technical choices.

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