In New Caledonia, shareholders of nickel factories in the sights

There are figures that do not pass. While the cessation of payments from Prony Resources, a factory located in the south of the Caledonian archipelago, could occur as early as February, the company no longer pays its electricity bills or its social charges in an attempt to perpetuate the activity, the raw materials trader Trafigura, 19% shareholder of the industrial complex, would have earned 126 million euros in 2023 from the sale of the nickel product by the factory, for which it holds exclusive marketing rights, according to figures put forward by the General Union of Industrial Workers of New Caledonia (SGTI-NC). The factory would have lost more than 210 million euros at the same time.

Fault ? An unbalanced shareholders’ pact, for the benefit of Trafigura, ensures Calédonie ensemble (non-independence), whose president, Philippe Gomès, does not hesitate to speak of “disaster, when three years ago, we were sold with great fanfare a new mining model.” If, in New Caledonia, nickel is always political, the South factory, scene of violent clashes against the backdrop of the referendum campaign at the end of 2020, is the most sensitive issue.

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The survival of the factory and the return to a peaceful social climate are only due to the knitting, in 2021, of an arrangement allowing the site to be owned by “51% Caledonian interests”, including public authorities. In charge, the president of the South province, Sonia Backès (The Loyalists, non-independence), close enemy of Philippe Gomès, who today finds herself on the front line to save what can be saved. In a joint press release released on Friday, the Southern province, the State and Prony Resources announced that they were looking for a “new industrial partner”.

“A profit of 740 million euros”

Trafigura is not the only shareholder to be singled out. The French group Eramet, majority shareholder of Société Le Nickel (SLN), nickel pioneer in New Caledonia and the country’s largest private employer, is also in the crosshairs of the SGTI-NC union. “Eramet made a profit of 740 million euros in 2022 but no longer wants to finance the subsidiary which, historically, took it to the top”tackle Glen Delathière, SGTI-NC union delegate at SLN, referring to the prosperous years which allowed the French group to invest massively in Indonesia, the new nickel Eldorado which today competes with Caledonian production, while the SLN is , she, also on the verge of cessation of payments.

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