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Mr. Nickel

SMSP’s Andre D ang transforms New Caledonia’s nickel industry

It’s just days before New Caledonia’s elections and Andre Dang is angry. The conservative majority in the Southern Province Assembly has allocated exploration rights for two major nickel deposits at Prony and Pernod. The President and CEO of the Société Minière du Sud Pacifique (SMSP) is not impressed that two overseas corporations are trying to steal the crown jewels.

“These two mineral deposits in the South are truly gems, the most beautiful jewels on the planet when it comes to nickel,” says Dang. “But they’re just giving them away. I find that really stupid, ridiculous to allow the despoliation of our wealth for the benefit of multinationals like ERAMET and Vale, when they don’t really need these deposits.”

“We can’t allow multinational companies to come here and impose their own rules,” he adds. “There will never be peace. This has to stop.” Andre Dang Van Nha is the dynamic force behind the recent transformation of the nickel industry in New Caledonia, which has seen construction of new smelters and the expansion of mineral sales into emerging Asian economies. Through the 20th century, the French company ERAMET and its subsidiary Société le Nickel (SLN) held a monopoly on smelting nickel, through the SLN plant at Doniambo in Noumea. Today, SLN has competition.

In New Caledonia’s Southern Province, the troubled Goro plant is run by the Brazilian corporation Vale. In the north, the US$5.3 billion plant at Vavouto is operated by Koniambo Nickel SAS (KNS), a joint venture between the Northern Province’s SMSP and the transnational conglomerate Glencore-Xstrata. For Dang, the construction of the KNS mining and smelting operation is the centrepiece of efforts at political and economic rebalancing under the 1998 Noumea Accord.

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