INCO Violates Fundamental Rights of New Caledonia's Indigenous Kanak People - Kanak Leaders Visit Shareholders' Meeting

Two Kanak traditional authorities, Senator Dick Meureureu-Goin, member of the Customary Senate of New Caledonia and Chief Adrien Koroma, of Waho, South New Caledonia, are in Toronto for Inco Ltd.'s Annual Meeting to call for the immediate establishment of a negotiation process with the affected Indigenous Population.

Since the launch of the Goro Nickel project at the end of 2001, Inco has avoided the legitimate concerns of Kanak communities. With its Goro and Prony concessions, Inco holds the largest nickel reserve in the world with the potential for one hundred years of exploitation – at the cost of violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, environmental devastation, and loss of unique biodiversity.

“Inco’s refusal to recognize the rights of the indigenous people of New Caledonia is a denial of the fundamental rights of the Kanak people as enshrined in the Noumea Accord signed with the Government of France on May 4th, 1998”, says Senator Dick Meureureu-Goin. “We do not understand why Inco has such a discriminatory attitude vis-à-vis the Kanak people when the mining company has signed agreements with the Indigenous People of Labrador”.

The Kanak people have identified specific issues around which they want to initiate discussions with Inco.

“The Kanak people’s Rhéébu Nùù Committee, which monitors the Inco project, has called for the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment by an independent team of scientists but Inco has not yet responded clearly on whether or not they accept to cooperate with the independent team,” says Chief Adrien Koroma. “A short independent study released in November 2003, has identified seismic risks due to tectonic friction in the region. This instability is a great concern, especially with regard to acid production and storage.”

The concerned Kanak population has set up a blockade at the Goro-Nickel site and their leaders say there will not be any further development of the project until Inco agrees to enter into a negotiation process with the Rhéébu Nùù Committee.

The Goro project comes not only with environmental but social costs. In the context of globalization, New Caledonia’s lax environmental and social regulations make Prony and Goro lucrative prospects for Inco, and ones that may well come at the cost of jobs in Manitoba and Ontario.

Contact: Jacques Boengkih (613) 795-5710