Behind New Caledonia’s Riots, a Fight Over Vast Reserves of Nickel – by Matthew Dalton and Sam Schechner (Wall Street Journal/ – May 20, 2024)

PARIS—Before riots swept New Caledonia last week, President Emmanuel Macron aimed to put the remote territory—and its massive reserves of nickel—at the center of France’s push to secure raw materials for the clean-energy transition and compete against China in manufacturing electric vehicles.

Those plans are colliding with a hard-line local political movement that seeks independence from France and is refusing to go along. The rioting exploded after lawmakers in Paris approved legislation to give more voting rights to New Caledonia’s nonindigenous population, diluting the influence of the native Kanak people.

At the same time, pro-independence parties are fighting a French proposal that would lift restrictions on exporting unprocessed nickel and prioritize shipments to European electric-vehicle battery factories.

“Nickel is wealth for New Caledonia,” Macron said last year on a trip to the Pacific archipelago. “It is also, and I emphasize this, a major strategic resource for France and Europe, at a time when we have undertaken a massive reindustrialization effort.”

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