A protest has occurred at Vale’s nickel mining site in New Caledonia resulting in the site being evacuated and military protection being established on the mine’s perimeter. The protest occurred on the 10th December and follows other protests in November 2020.
The protest was reportedly established by local chiefs in response to the sale of the site to Prony Resources, half-owned by New Caledonian interests and includes a 25-per cent stake by a Swiss commodity trader Trafigura.
According to local news sources, the protesters set fire to the mine and associated infrastructure. The fire brigade the Gendarmes (military forces) were on-site in the evening of 10th December to secure the plant and extinguish fires. The plant, which is located 7km away from the mine, remains secure and currently under the protection of the Gendarmes (military forces). The operations have been halted until safe work and community conditions prevail.
Vale has confirmed that there were no injuries, no environmental damage and no industrial accidents. The operations are being shut down in a safe and controlled manner.
? Situation quasi-insurectionnelle à l'usine de Nickel en #NouvelleCalédonie, dont la vente suscite la colère des indépendantistes. Les gendarmes ont fait usage de leurs armes pour empêcher des intrusions sur le site. L'usine a été évacuée et mis en arrêt d'urgence. pic.twitter.com/eeFKqkQTfc— Anonyme Citoyen (@AnonymeCitoyen) December 10, 2020
Vale says it repudiates the acts of violence and reaffirms its commitment to the safety and protection of VNC’s employees and community partners while unconditionally supporting efforts for a peaceful solution of the situation.
Vale has been trying to sell its operations in New Caledonia for over a year. On December 8th Vale signed a binding put option agreement for the sale of its ownership interest in VNC. Vale announced a period of exclusivity for negotiations with a consortium gathered in a new company called “Prony Resources”, led by current Vale New Caledonia management and employees and supported by both the Caledonian and French authorities with Trafigura as a minority shareholder.
The proposed transaction, which is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2021 and as to which a reserve of US$500 million will be reflected on Vale’s consolidated financial statements, is subject to consultation with the VNC works council and other conditions, including approvals by Caledonian authorities and the French State.
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