New Caledonia is an island territory located in the southern hemisphere, in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, close to Australia and New Zealand. It is a "sui generis" collectivity from the French overseas territories. Its surface area is 18575 km2 and it has a 40,000 km2 lagoon in the heart of a 1.5 million KM2 exclusive economic zone.
Since the discovery of nickel deposits by Garnier in 1864, the history of New Caledonia and its population has been closely linked to mining activity.
New Caledonia has 25% of the world's nickel resources and about 9% of its reserves, distributed over approximately 300,000 hectares of allocated mining concessions, representing 18% of the surface area of the main island.
Oxidized nickel ores (silicates and/or rich in iron oxyhydroxides) were formed by nickel enrichment from the long-term weathering (30 million years) of ultrabasic rocks that led to the formation of lateritic mantle, forming a typical landscape of plateaus and valleys dissected by the erosion of the rivers feeding the lagoon.
Nickel is mined in open-air quarries, in the heart of terrestrial ecosystems with a very high biodiversity rate, with more than 80% of remarkable endemic plant species.
The Matignon Agreement in 1988 and the Noumea Agreement in 1998 placed the development of nickel mining at the heart of the sources of economic rebalancing in New Caledonia and its three provinces.
Three global projects (SLN-ERAMET for more than a century), Koniambo Nickel SAS, and VALE-NC (since 2000) process ores on site by pyro- and/or hydro-metallurgy.
The combination of the challenges of economic development and the preservation/enhancement of terrestrial and marine ecosystems is a major challenge and concern for all private and public actors and populations.
Scientific institutions make a significant contribution through research and innovation to increasing the knowledge needed to establish public policies for responsible mining activity within the framework of sustainable development objectives (SDOs). (BRGM, IAC, IFREMER, IRD, Archaeological Institute, Institut Pasteur, UNC).
A research resources and programming agency dedicated to mining activity was created in 2008 (the CNRT "nickel and its environment", www.cnrt.nc ), and an observatory of the mining environment was set up in 2008 in the southern province (ŒIL, www.oeil.nc).
The technopole of New Caledonia was created in 2011 (http://technopole.nc/fr) to promote sustainable economic diversification, and a research consortium (CRESICA) was created in 2014 (see http://www.cresica.nc ).
A scheme for the development of mineral wealth, provided for in the Nouméa Accord, was adopted by the Congress of New Caledonia in 2009 (https://dimenc.gouv.nc/mines-et-carrieres/le-schema-minier), followed by the adoption of the Mining Code (see www.dimenc.gouv.nc)
The North and South provinces adopted their environmental codes in 2008 and 2009 (https://www.province-sud.nc and https://www.province-nord.nc)
The New Caledonia (sustainable) development and planning scheme was adopted by the Congress in 2016 (www.sap.gouv.nc ).