At the approach of the referendum on the independence of New Caledonia on 4 November, the question of the place of nickel in the local economy, and French is regularly invited in the debate. The global resources of the "green gold", held at 25% by the archipelago, provide the territory with an industrial fabric developed. For France, although this market represents only a pan of little significance to the national economy, this metal is indispensable in the manufacture of stainless steel, which makes it a strategic issue on the international scene.nickel, the main resource of the "Pebble"
"the pebble" in the Pacific, the economy of the nickel represents nearly a fifth of the gross domestic product and 90% of exports. Ranked this year as the fifth largest producers in the world by the international Group for the study of the nickel (INSG), New Caledonia now exceeds the production of Australia and Canada. The territory of new caledonia remains very dependent of the exploitation of this raw material, which accounts for nearly 90% of exports and accounts for one in five jobs.
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The Société Le Nickel (SLN), subsidiary of the French group Eramet, is the incumbent of the ore, the operator of the sites located to the north and east. With around 55,000 tonnes of ferronickel annually, the industrial is the largest employer in the territory. However, for some time, its results are weakened, aligning six years of deficit in a row (-125 million euros in 2017). In addition, the SLN, which operates the deposit of Kouaoua, has just come out of a crisis and to resume its activity after months of deadlock, during which fifty young Kanaks have blocked access to three sites to report environmental risks.
for a Long time in a monopoly situation on the Stone, the SLN is now challenged by two international actors. On one side, the joint-venture Koniambo Nickel SAS, belonging to the Mining Company in the South Pacific and the anglo-swiss Glencore, is present in the Northern province of the territory, led by the guerrillas. On the other, the brazilian company Vale, the largest producer of nickel in the world, operates in the south. But his factory is a challenge. In fact, its industrial complex, Goro shows mixed results and a lack of profitability. Under pressure from analysts international, the group's CEO, Fabio Schvartsman, said give until the end of the year to announce solutions to optimize the revenue generated by its factory.A competition that grows stronger on a market weakened
With the collapse in the price of nickel, which is divided by two between 2011 and 2016, and amounting today to around 12,000 euros per tonne, as well as the arrival on the market of the producing countries to low-cost mining and metallurgical industry of New Caledonia is staggering. At the international level, supply and demand are constantly increasing, with the challenge now for the nickel industry in New Caledonia to view cost competitive with countries that dominate the sector: China, in particular, with its main suppliers are the Philippines and Indonesia. In fact, today, the latter, along with Brazil and Madagascar, which hold 70% of world production.
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In addition, the economy in the neo-caledonian remains very dependent on the metal, a true mono-industry, without the true desire of diversification of activities. While for many pro-independence, the nickel is a strong argument, several experts indicated that this raw material alone, it does not allow New Caledonia to achieve economic independence. Nicolas Mazzuchi, expert in raw materials and a researcher at the Foundation for strategic research, explained to the Figaro to succeed, "the territory should have two-thirds of the world's nickel". He added that the archipelago could be exposing the "evil Dutch", economic phenomenon consisting of a too strong exposure of the local economy to variations in the price of natural resources to the international.France is the main mining resource
However, the mining sites in New Caledonia are recognized as the most promising in the world, particularly because of the quality of the ore is extracted, especially sought by China. Thus, with the referendum on the independence of New Caledonia, France has put his main mining resource, and thus its status as a holder of a metal indispensable in many sectors.
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Even if the sector is not particularly significant to the scale of the French economy, the nickel is the only material first French strategic which is already being exploited and which features France in large quantities. It is, therefore, an active non-negligible, and a strategic metal, in particular for the electronics sector where it is used in very large quantities. For Nicolas Mazzuchi, "the nickel is finally in France a important key issues of global strategy, particularly with China which is the world's leading consumer". In addition, the exceptional quality of the new caledonian nickel, which justifies its high cost, represents a competitive advantage of excellence for niche applications. In terms of its future uses, the expert indicates that this nickel quality "could replace the neodymium-magnet, at the heart of the operation of a wind turbine, editor's note)", and thus "compete with China, which control the global market for wind power".
In the event of independence, the future of the companies exploiting nickel in New Caledonia will depend on the regulations that will be put in force, that is, protectionist or open. And the new authorities will not exclusively rely on this resource to ensure the prosperity of the country.
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