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Vale SA Nickel Mine: Production to Restart after Suspension

New Caledonia to allow conditional restart of Vale nickel mine after chemical spill and riotsBrazilian mining company, Vale SA, has announced the reviva...

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|Jun 2|magazine5 min read

New Caledonia to allow conditional restart of Vale nickel mine after chemical spill and riots

Brazilian mining company, Vale SA, has announced the revival of its nickel mine after receiving permission from New Caledonian authorities to restart production. A chemical spill earlier this month caused operations to be suspended.

According to the Goro providence, authorities are ready to issue an authorization to restart mining activities in the new few days.

"The president of the Southern Province will issue by the end of the day or in the next few days an authorisation to restart the mining activities," a spokeswoman for the province told Reuters by telephone from the French-administered island.

The company’s $6 billion plant at Goro in southern New Caledonia had leaked some 100,000 litres of acid-tainted effluent into a river earlier this month, killing roughly 1,000 fish. The spill sparked a massive outrage last week with protestors causing tens of millions of dollars in damages to vehicles, equipment and buildings at the mining site. Police remain on high alert as protesters continue to be visible near the plant.

The nickel mine has been plagued with environmental troubles and protests in recent years. The plant employs high pressure technology and acids to leach nickel from abundant tropical laterite ores. The Southern Province of French-administered Pacific island said it was Vale’s sixth major incident at the Goro site and implemented safety standards as a condition of the mine resuming.

The decision to reopen the mine came after an independent expert’s report said it was not opposed to the restart of the operations. The report, which was submitted by “Institut National de I’Environnement Industriel et des Risques”, a national environmental safety body, recommended the reinforcement of security measures, audit of safety management and the establishment of a third-party surveillance committee.

Nickel mining is a major industry in New Caledonia with as much as a quarter of the world’s known reserves. The Vale plant is the second-largest employer in the southern province, with some 3,500 employees and contractors.