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New Caledonia leaders agree new terms for sale of Vale nickel mine

·1 min read

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Political parties in New Caledonia on Thursday agreed new terms for the sale of Vale's nickel business, including a proposed majority stakeholding for local interests, in an attempt to resolve unrest over the planned sale.

Brazilian miner Vale's decision last year to sell its nickel mine and processing plant in the French Pacific territory to a consortium including Swiss commodity trader Trafigura sparked fierce opposition from pro-independence groups.

Violent protests led Vale to shut down the site in December.

Under Thursday's agreement, pro-independence and loyalist leaders proposed that a 51% stake in the Vale operations be held by New Caledonia's provincial authorities and other local interests. Trafigura would have a 19% stake, less than the 25% planned in the initial sale deal with Vale.

The text released by the New Caledonian parties also mentioned a "technical and industrial partnership" with Tesla under which the electric car maker would source raw materials for batteries.

Vale, Trafigura and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

New Caledonia is the world's fourth-largest nickel producer, behind Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia.

Demand for nickel, mainly used in making stainless steel, is expected to grow rapidly due to demand for electric vehicle batteries.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; additional reporting by Eric Onstad)