Kanak Chiefs from New Caledonia Tour Canada

In October MiningWatch Canada hosted a delegation of four people from New Caledonia. Two members of the NGO Action Biosphere and two indigenous Kanak chiefs (the President and the Secretary General of the Senat Coutumier) came to Canada to better understand the nickel mine INCO is planning to build in Goro, New Caledonia and to learn from community members in Canada who have experience with existing, or proposed, INCO mines.

The delegation met with INCO officials in Toronto where they expressed frustration over the lack of information they are receiving about the project locally and the lack of effort on INCO's part to consult with indigenous Kanak leadership. They also met with members of the ethical investment community, the Anglican Church, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the media and others.

In Sudbury, they established relationships with, among others, unionised workers at the INCO mine, and in Davis Inlet, Labrador they were the guests of the Innu Nation. In Ottawa the delegation met with members of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

At the end of their trip they decided to seek an independent assessment of INCO's Environmental Impact Assessment that should be released at the end of December or the beginning of January. A few days ago, while on a high-profile visit to INCO's proposed mine site, the French Overseas Minister Christian Paul was met by a delegation of Kanak villagers who presented him with a booklet of their demands and wishes. These included:

  1. That the project be delayed for two years;
  2. That there be an independent EIA;
  3. That there be a sociological baseline study;
  4. That INCO present concrete contract offers with locals for sub-contracting, etc.; and
  5. That the laws be modified to give locals a right to hold the company responsible if something goes wrong.

[for more information see our backgrounder What's Inco Doing in New Caledonia?].