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23 Aug 2019

Environmental Justice Atlas

New Caledonia: Vale nickel operations allegedly polluting air & contaminating seafood comprising indigenous communities' livelihood

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"Rhéébù Nùù group and Vale mining, New Caledonia", 05 February 2019

Vale’s “Southern Refinery” project.. is located at the southern tip of the main island of New Caledonia. It involves mining nickel and cobalt, as well as construction of a refinery that uses hydrometallurgical technology. In this procedure...acid under pressure leaches nickel and cobalt from the ore, with effluent discharged into the sea... Operations are continuing, despite delays caused by acid leaks in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014 (both the first and most recent of which devastated the local freshwater ecosystem)... Rhéébù Nùù, and the villagers they represented, were especially concerned about what was popularly known as “the pipe”, the diffuser that would transport waste products, including neutralized sulfuric acid and dissolved metals, into the Havannah Canal, where local people fish. The most dangerous impact has been almost entirely ignored: mercury from the coal-fired power plant, which will contaminate local seafood, upon which the communities depend for sustenance....However, in September 2008, four Rhéébù Nùù leaders, twenty-five customary authorities and two Goro Nickel representatives signed a “Pact for Sustainable Development of the Far South [of New Caledonia]”. Through this agreement, the mining company committed to creating both a Corporate Foundation to fund local development initiatives and a “Consultative Customary Environmental Committee” composed of senior male customary authorities who could recommend further studies... and to [commit to] an extensive reforestation program. In exchange, Rhéébù Nùù members committed to “assert their point of view not through violent or illegal actions, but by dialogue”.