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Page 1: TABLE OF CONTENTS · table of contents table of contents.....i
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TABLE OF CONTENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS......................................................................................................................... I

LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................................................................ III

LIST OF FIGURES............................................................................................................................... III

LIST OF MAPS ....................................................................................................................................IV

1. THE CONTEXT..............................................................................................................................1 1.1 NEW CALEDONIA – GENERAL...................................................................................................1 1.2 BUSINESS CONTEXT .................................................................................................................7

1.2.1 Proponents: Falconbridge and SMSP – general presentation 7 1.2.2 Bercy Accord 7 1.2.3 Koniambo Massif 8 1.2.4 Project concept 10

1.3 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT.....................................................................................................13 1.3.1 Overview 13 1.3.2 Environmental management 13 1.3.3 Project environmental philosophy, approaches and management 15 1.3.4 Legal context in New Caledonia 19

2. DESCRIPTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT ..................................................................................23 2.1 COMPONENTS OF THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS ..........................23

2.1.1 Climate 23 2.1.2 Air quality and atmospheric emissions 29

2.2 COMPONENTS OF THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: CONTINENTAL ASPECTS .................................29 2.2.1 Geology 29 2.2.2 Physiography and geomorphology 31 2.2.3 Pedology 32 2.2.4 Hydrology and hydrogeology 32 2.2.5 Water and sediment quality in watercourses 35

2.3 BIOLOGICAL COMPONENTS OF THE CONTINENTAL ENVIRONMENT ..............................................37 2.3.1 Flora and fauna – General status in New Caledonia 37 2.3.2 Terrestrial plants 38 2.3.3 Description of the main continental wildlife habitats 39 2.3.4 Freshwater benthos 40 2.3.5 Freshwater fish 42 2.3.6 Amphibians and reptiles 43 2.3.7 Terrestrial birds 43 2.3.8 Land mammals 44 2.3.9 Protected species in the continental environment 45 2.3.10 Protection of biodiversity: terrestrial environment 46

2.4 PHYSICAL AND BIOLOGICAL COMPONENTS OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT .................................46 2.4.1 Oceanography 46 2.4.2 Description of the main marine wildlife habitats 48 2.4.3 Marine ichthyofauna and benthos 49 2.4.4 Marine reptiles 52 2.4.5 Marine bird fauna 52 2.4.6 Marine mammals 53 2.4.7 Protection of marine biodiversity 54

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2.5 HUMAN AND SOCIAL COMPONENTS OF THE ENVIRONMENT........................................................55 2.5.1 Social-demographic and economic characteristics of the population 55 2.5.2 Social organization and characteristics of the social environment 59 2.5.3 Land tenure 60 2.5.4 Economic activities and land use 60 2.5.5 Cultural resources 64 2.5.6 Scenic landscape 64 2.5.7 Valued environmental components and concerns 65

3. THE FUTURE: ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..............................67 3.1 ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES .......................................................................................................67

3.1.1 General 67 3.1.2 Issues related to physical and biological aspects of the environment 68 3.1.3 Issues related to human aspects of the environment 69

3.2 FUTURE ACTIVITIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS..........................................................................72 3.2.1 Future activities related to the environmental management of the project 72 3.2.2 Recommendations related to international conventions 77 3.2.3 Conclusion 79


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LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Calendar and distribution for the transfer of powers

to New Caledonia ____________________________4 Table 2 Distribution, by province, of the members of the

Congress of New Caledonia and the Provincial Assemblies _________________________________5

Table 3 Annual instantaneous peak flows and specific flows of the Pouembout River, at the Boutana station ____________________________________33

Table 4 Descriptive statistics of water quality characteristics of rivers within the study area and during low-water periods - Data gathered from 1992 to 1999 by the DAF (Direction de l'Agriculture et de la Forêt), and by Falconbridge NC in 2000, as part of the Koniambo Project ________________35

Table 5 Descriptive statistics for sediment quality characteristics (samples taken in November 2000)__36

Table 6 Descriptive information about the benthic infauna of the estuaries, mangrove and lagoon seafloor habitats ___________________________________50

Table 7 Descriptive information about the ichthyofauna of the estuaries, mangroves, lagoon seafloor habitats and barrier reefs ____________________________51

LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 Typical succession of lateritic facies at the

Koniambo deposit ___________________________11 Figure 2 Total monthly rainfall in Koné (1922-1998) ________26 Figure 3 Monthly distribution of rainfall (RR) and

evapotranspiration (ETP) at Koumac (West Coast) _28 Figure 4 Monthly distribution of rainfall (RR) and

evapotranspiration (ETP) at Poindimié (East Coast) ____________________________________28

Figure 5 Development of a mining project and relationships with environmental aspects and studies __________75

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LIST OF MAPS Map 1 General location of New Caledonia _______________2 Map 2 Grande Terre (New Caledonia) - General view and

location of the study area (in sleeve) Map 3 Summary map of the biophysical and human

environment (in sleeve)

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1.1 NEW CALEDONIA – GENERAL 1.1 New Caledonia – General 1.2 Business context

1.2.1 The proponents: Falconbridge and SMSP – general presentation

1.2.2 Bercy Accord 1.2.3 Koniambo Massif 1.2.4 Project concept

1.3 Environmental context 1.3.1 Overview 1.3.2 Environmental

management 1.3.3 Project environmental

philosophy, approaches and management

1.3.4 Legal context in New Caledonia

The Territory of New Caledonia and Dependencies (New Caledonia) is an archipelago located (21° 30’ S, 165° 30' E) in the South Pacific Ocean, 1500 km east of Australia (Map 1). The largest community in New Caledonia is Nouméa, and the Territory is comprised of three provinces (Loyalty Islands, North and South).

The Territory has some 2250 km of coastline. The Territorial Sea is a 12-nautical mile zone, whereas the Exclusive Economic Zone is a 200-nautical mile zone surrounding the Territory. The main island, called “Grande Terre”, is institutionally divided into the North and the South provinces; it is about 50 km wide by 400 km long (18 575 km2; Map 2, in sleeve). Grande Terre is surrounded by a coral reef barrier, which forms one of the largest lagoons in the world.

Influenced by southeast trade winds, the climate is tropical (hot and humid); cyclones are most frequent from November to March. Grande Terre is divided length-wise by a mountain range, and has coastal plains along its shoreline. The highest summits are Mount Panié (1628 m) and Mount Humboldt (1618 m).

New Caledonia became an Overseas Territory (TOM or "Territoire d’outre-mer") of France in 1946, and has recently been granted a new and unique status as a French Overseas Community ("Collectivité d’outre-mer"). The current institutional structure of the Territory of New Caledonia resulted from the Matignon Agreement, the Nouméa Agreement (May 1998) and the Organic Act (November 1998), which fixed the framework for the development of New Caledonia over the next 20 years.

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Map 1 General location of New Caledonia Map 1 General location of New Caledonia

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The Matignon Agreement was signed on June 26, 1988, by the French Prime Minister and the political leaders of the Kanak National Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS; Mr. Jean-Marie Tjibaou) and the Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (RPCR; Mr. Jacques Lafleur). A few months following the signing of the Matignon Agreement, the French people approved a referendum act, Act. 88-1028 dated November 9, 1988, permitting the implementation of the Agreement and specifying the statutory and preparatory provisions for the self-determination of New Caledonia. This Act defined the broad outline of New

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Caledonia’s new structure, and subdivided the Territory into three provinces (Loyalty Islands, North and South). The Joint Declaration of the Matignon Agreement recognizes the need "to help maintain civil peace so as to create the conditions under which the local people are able to make choices with respect to their future freely and in confidence, and hence control their destiny". With this purpose in mind, a poll on self-determination was organized ten years later, in 1998, in New Caledonia. As a result, the Nouméa Agreement was signed in May 1998 by the French Government and New Caledonia’s two main political parties (RPCR and FLNKS); a changing but predictable political and economic environment has now been created for the development of New Caledonia.

The Nouméa Agreement defines the Territory’s political and economic organizations, which are critical for its economic growth. During the 20-year period of the Agreement, political powers will be gradually transferred from Paris to Nouméa and the rural centres of the Provinces. At the end, only defence, security, justice and currency powers will be left under French jurisdiction. In some cases, the Territory may itself enter into political and economic agreements with other entities. Under the Agreement, New Caledonia obtained mineral rights previously held by the French Republic.

Currently, the French State retains its kingly powers (defence, civil security, currency, etc.), and is gradually transferring other powers to New Caledonia. This transfer of powers is accompanied by the transfer of corresponding tools for their application, and must be approved by the Congress of New Caledonia in framework laws that are based on metropolitan codes, although not exclusively. The programming of the transfer of powers to New Caledonia is outlined in Table 1.

The Provincial Assemblies are elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The Congress of New Caledonia comprises the members of the three Provincial Assemblies (Table 2). The government of the French Republic is represented by the High Commissioner (Haut-Commissariat). New Caledonia’s advisory bodies consist of the Economic and Social Council, which advises and provides opinions on economic, social and cultural projects, and the Customary Senate ("Sénat coutumier").

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Table 1 Calendar and distribution for the transfer of powers to New Caledonia Sector State New Caledonia Provinces Nationality, Immigration

Nationality: civil rights; Electoral regime Customary civil status, lands, palavers, and customary area boundaries

Guarantee of civil liberties Public safety (1) Conditions of entry and residency of foreigners. Keeping of the peace (3)

Defence, Civil Order and Security

Defense, war materials regime, arms and ammunitions

Civil law, rules pertaining to births, deaths, marriage registry (1) Criminal law (3) Insurance, cooperation, and mutual fund law Law and Justice Justice, organization of the judiciary: criminal and administrative disputes procedures; public prison service

Civil procedure, jurisdictional aid, and administration of services responsible for judicial protection of children

Secondary education, private primary training, school health (1) Collation and issuing of titles and diplomas (3)

Primary education programmes: primary teacher training curriculum surveillance

Adaptation of primary education programmes

Tertiary education (2) Construction, maintenance of colleges, boarding schools in 1o deg. education Education and Research

Research (3) Audiovisual communication (2) (3) Postal and telecommunications Government liaisons and communications in defence and security of post offices, telecommunications; Radioelectric frequency regulation

Sea traffic of territorial interest, vessel registration

Air and sea services between NC and other locations within the Republic’s territory, status of vessels; registration of aircrafts

Domestic and international air services (subject to State power for liaisons with Metropolitan France)

Policing and security of domestic air traffic and sea traffic in territorial waters (1)

Port and airport infrastructure within New Caledonia’s domain; slaughterhouses/freezing works

Airports and ports of provincial interest

Infrastructure, Communication and Transport

Air safety (3) New Caledonian road network, traffic and road transport Production and carriage of electricity

Road network of provincial interest

Currency, lending, exchange, financial relations with o’seas parties; Treasury

Taxation Additional taxes to New Caledonian taxation Currency and Taxation State civil service New Caledonian and municipal civil service Management of provincial personnel

Public tenders and delegation of State public services and public institutions

Regulation of public tenders and delegation of New Caledonian public service

Control of legality and rules relating to the administration of the provinces, municipalities, and their public institutions, accounting and finance systems of public services and their public institutions (2)

Organization of New Caledonia’s public services and institutions Administration and finances

Budgetary control of provinces, municipalities and their public institutions

Statistics of interest to New Caledonia

Commercial law (1) Overseas trade, customs regime; direct foreign investment Economic development Commerce and investment Weight and measure regulations; competition, fraud repression. Tobacco

trade. Price control and organization of public tenders

Labour law (Fundamental principles), union law; ongoing education and attribution of diplomas obtained; Labour department

Ongoing education operations

Regulation of independent and commercial professions, public and ministerial officers

Employment and ongoing education

Protection of local employment. Foreigner eligibility to work Social welfare, health, public hygiene; Hospitals Welfare and Health Plant and animal regulations. Plant and animal border control Construction, management of establishments of provincial interest

Sport, Tourism and Culture

Sport and socio-educational activity regulations; sport and cultural infrastructure and events

Promotion of sport, culture and tourism

Mining regulations with regard to the mineral substances mentioned in the 1o paragraph of section 19 of decree 54-111 of November 13, 1954

Regulation of hydrocarbons, nickel, chrome, cobalt Decision in application of regulations pertaining to hydrocarbons, nickel, chrome, cobalt

Regulation and exercise of exploration rights, exploration, management, and conservation of natural biological and non-biological resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone

Regulation and exercise of exploration rights, exploitation, management and conservation of natural biological and non-biological resources in domestic and territorial waters as well as of the ground and underground

Land and underground rights

Land law in New Caledonia and provinces Customary lands regime, customary area boundaries

Land law. Mine policing. Protection of land and marine environment

Urban, housing Major guidelines in legislation of urban development, cadastral register Urban development and construction law Source: ITSEE (2000) (1) Transfer during 2nd or 3rd congressional mandate (2) Transfer from 3rd congressional mandate (3) Shared power

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Table 2 Distribution, by province, of the members of the Congress of New Caledonia and the Provincial Assemblies Provinces North South Loyalty

Islands Total

Provincial Assemblies 22 40 14 76 New Caledonia Congress 15 32 7 54

This Customary Senate (the Senate) is composed of sixteen (16) members, two representatives per Customary Area, designated by the Customary Councils, according to traditional practices. Senate members have five-year mandates. The Senate is consulted (by the presidents of the Government, the Congress, and the Provincial Assemblies) on projects or proposals concerning the Kanak people. It can also deliberate on any other project or proposal. The Senate can approach the Government, the Congress or a Provincial Assembly with respect to any proposal concerning the Kanak identity. The Senate is represented on the Consultative Committee on Mines. Senate operations are funded by a specific budget, which constitutes an expenditure that must be entered in New Caledonia’s budget.

New Caledonia has a population of approximately 210 000, 30% of whom are aged 14 and under, and 65% aged 14 to 65. Forty-four percent of the population is aged 20 or under. The population growth rate is about 1,6%, and the fertility rate is 2,43 children born/woman. Currently, life expectancy at birth is 69,8 years for men, and 75,8 for women.

The population is composed of many ethnic groups including Kanak (42,5%), European (37,1%), Wallisian (8,4%), Polynesian (3,8%), Indonesian (3,6%), Vietnamese (1,6%), and others (3%). New Caledonian society is therefore composed of people from many different origins, languages, and cultures. There are also many religions in New Caledonia, although most of the people are Roman Catholics (60%) or Protestants (30%). There are 28 Kanak dialects or languages, but French is the official language of the Territory. The literacy rate is quite high; 91% of the people aged 15 and over can read and write. School is mandatory from age 6 to 16.

There are several political parties and leaders, the most important being the Melanesian pro-independence Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) and the Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (RPCR). The RPCR and its allies hold the majority in the New Caledonian Congress and form the current Government.

The GDP amounts to US$2,1 billion (US$11 400 per capita). The economy is divided into the services (72%), industry (25%), and agricultural (3%) sectors. Although agriculture accounts for only 3%

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of the GDP, it is probably, along with subsistence fisheries, the most important component of the informal economy1. The inflation rate (consumer prices) is 1,7%, and the labour force is slightly over 70 000 people; the unemployment rate is about 15%. Electricity is generated using fossil fuels (69,9%) and hydroelectricity (30,1%).

Major natural resources are nickel, chrome, iron and cobalt. New Caledonia has more than 20% of the world's known nickel resources. In addition to nickel, financial support from France and tourism are essential to the strength of the economy. New Caledonia is currently implementing programs to diversify its economy, and offshore fisheries are one of the avenues under serious consideration.

Only a small portion of the land (along the coastline) is suitable for agriculture, and food accounts for about 25% of imports. Local agricultural products are vegetables, beef, and other livestock products.

Exported commodities consist of mainly ferronickel and nickel ore2, which are shipped to Japan (31%), France (29%), USA (12%), Australia (7%), and Taiwan (6%).

Imported commodities include food, transportation equipment, machinery, electrical equipment, fuels, and minerals. New Caledonia imports these commodities from France (45%), Australia (18%), Singapore (7%), New Zealand (6%), and Japan (4%).

There are no railroads in the Territory, and land transportation of goods and fuel is carried out by trucks on paved highways (some 5600 km). Ports and harbours are located in Nouméa (International port), Thio (SLN property for the transhipment of ore), Kouaoua, Koumac, and Mueo (SLN property for the transhipment of ore), located near Népoui and the study area (Map 2, in sleeve). There are also small harbours for local fishermen, but there are no port facilities in the North Province that could be used for the Koniambo Project. Many small airfields have been built, the most important ones being in Tontouta (the international airport near Nouméa), Magenta (in Nouméa, for domestic flights) and Koné, close to the Koniambo Massif.

1 "Informal economy", as opposed to "wage economy", usually does not figure in

official statistics. 2 Open-pit mining for nickel contained into the garnierite dates back to 1875. The

Doniambo plant, owned and operated by SLN since the early 1930s, has an annual capacity of 62 000 t Ni.

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1.2.1 Proponents: Falconbridge and SMSP – general presentation

Falconbridge Limited is the third largest producer of nickel in the world3, and a leading producer of copper, cobalt and platinum group metals. It is also one of the world’s largest recyclers and processor of nickel and cobalt-bearing scrap and residues. Founded in 1928 and employing about 6500 people in fourteen countries, Falconbridge Limited operates several nickel and copper deposits and processing plants in Canada (Raglan, Sudbury, Kidd Creek), Chile (Collahuasi), the Dominican Republic (Falcondo) and Norway (Nikkelverk in Christiansand).

Falconbridge NC SAS was created in 1998 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Falconbridge Limited, with the mandate to carry out the required fieldwork and studies (exploration, engineering, metallurgical and environmental) for the development of the Koniambo Massif. On successful completion of a bankable feasibility study (BFS), a joint venture will be formed by Falconbridge and SMSP for the construction, development and operation of the project.

The Société Minière du Sud Pacifique (SMSP) has been mining and shipping nickel ore from New Caledonia for the last 20 years, and was bought by the North Province at the end of 1990. Subsequently, it has undergone rapid growth, and currently mines about 45 000 t Ni per year. SMSP is a subsidiary of Société Financière du Nord (SOFINOR); it employs about 850 people, and operates five mines (Nakety, Boa-Kaine, Poya, Ouaco and Poum) and various ports in New Caledonia.

1.2.2 Bercy Accord The development of the Koniambo property is based on a joint venture agreement between SMSP and Falconbridge Limited. The main elements of this agreement are summarized below.

Access to the Koniambo resources is provided for in the Bercy Accord, which was signed by the French Government, SLN/Eramet, SMSP and Agence française de Développement (AFD). SLN/Eramet previously had the mining rights over the Koniambo deposits, while SMSP had the mining rights over Poum. This agreement allowed the exchange of the two deposits between SMSP and SLN/Eramet. These mining rights are currently "in trust", and the rights over the Koniambo deposit will be transferred to SMSP for a joint venture with Falconbridge under the following conditions:

3 In 1999, Falconbridge (and its affiliate Falcondo) smelters and refineries have

produced 98 637 t of nickel, of which 80% comes from mines owned by Falconbridge (Sudbury, Raglan, and Falcondo).

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completion of a bankable feasibility study (BFS), and a recommendation to proceed with the initial project (i.e., the construction of a pyrometallurgical complex near the Koniambo Massif, with an annual production capacity of 54 000 t Ni in ferronickel); a firm commitment of US$100 million (excluding the feasibility

study) towards the project; the above-mentioned conditions being met by January 1, 2006.

1.2.3 Koniambo Massif OVERVIEW The Koniambo Massif is located on the northwestern coast of New Caledonia, 270 km northwest of Nouméa. Access from Nouméa is provided by a paved provincial highway, which parallels the western coast of the island. The massif lies between the town of Koné, located at the southeastern end of the massif, and the town of Voh, located on the northwestern side. With a population of about 5000, Koné is the capital of the North Province, and is serviced by two daily commuter flights from Nouméa. SMSP’s Ouaco mining centre (Ouazangou, Gomen and Ouala deposits) is located 40 kilometres to the northwest.

The Koniambo Massif PROPERTY DESCRIPTION The Koniambo Massif is oriented NW-SE, and measures 20 km long by 6-10 km wide. The massif is characterized by steep slopes, and rises from sea level along a narrow coastal plain to a maximum elevation of 930 m above sea level. A series of elevated plateaux and terraces have developed along the axis of the massif and over its entire length, with common stepped terraces (spurs) emanating from the main ridge. The Koniambo Massif is deeply dissected by rivers that originate on the ridge forming the main axis of the massif. The river valleys are characterized by steep slopes similar to the eastern side of the massif. Gentler slopes occur on the summits of the narrow

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interfluves, between the main river systems, as well as on the axial ridge of the Koniambo. At the extreme northwest of the Massif, a deep valley (Voh River) separates a satellite deposit, known as Kathépaïk, from the Koniambo Massif.

The ore deposits are located on the upper elevations of the Koniambo Massif. The coastal area to the south and southwest of the mining deposits is the nearest land suitable for the location of plant facilities. The general topography of this sector is suitable for construction purposes. In addition, the area is close to a coastal lagoon, which provides sea access for receiving fuel and supplies, as well as for shipping products. SITE GEOLOGY The deposits of the Koniambo Massif are composed of limonites and saprolites formed as a result of the weathering of peridotites (predominantly harzburgite, with some minor areas of dunite), which are commonly found in New Caledonia. The alteration of the ultramafic rock forms a laterite profile that is best preserved on the plateaux and gentler slopes (Figure 1). Significant laterite mineralization covers approximately 45 km2 of the Koniambo Massif. Limonite cover is generally less than 5 m thick, and ore grade saprolite is often exposed at surface. The ferricrete (“cuirasse”), an iron-rich hard surface crust, is developed at the surface of the gentler slopes of the main ridge and interfluves. Resulting from the weathering of peridotites in the ultrabasic massifs, nickel is concentrated in limonite and saprolite layers. Nickel has a concentration of 0,2 to 0,3% in the original peridotite, and is liberated by hydrolysis of nickel-bearing silicates; it thus becomes concentrated towards the base of the weathering profile, where it can reach exploitable concentrations of 2 to 5% Ni. EXPLORATION PROGRAM Following the Bercy Accord and the signature of an agreement between SMSP and Falconbridge, a due diligence review on the resource of the Koniambo deposit was undertaken by Falconbridge NC in May-June 1998. A preliminary saprolite resource estimation was established at 132 million tonnes grading 2,46% Ni, 0,06% Co, with a SiO2/ MgO ratio of 1,7 (2,0% Ni cut-off).

In June 1998, the geological team received a mandate to define and evaluate the economically mineable reserves of the Koniambo deposit in order to incorporate the acquired knowledge in a bankable feasibility study (BFS) due to start at the end of 2001.

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In order to fulfil this mandate, the following activities were performed:

topographical surveys; geophysical exploration; 70 583 m of additional core drilling (1860 holes); geological and structural mapping; geostatistical analysis; collection of bulk samples for metallurgical testing; calculation of mineable reserves.

Exploration work carried out since April 1998 includes:

aerial surveys to generate topographic maps with 2 m elevation contours; bulk sampling for metallurgical (hydro- and pyro-) test work; mineralogical characterization; geological and structural mapping to identify the main structural

patterns and their relationships to lateritic Ni mineralization;

1.2.4 Project concept At the present time, the following project concept is being considered:

open-pit mining (3,1 Mt/a) of saprolitic ore, at various mine sites on the Koniambo Massif, and ore delivery to a coastal ferronickel smelter by trucks and a surface conveyor linking the top of the mountain to the coastal facilities; production of 54 000 t of Ni in ferronickel, with the production of a

granular slag; slag disposal by on-land storage near the ferronickel plant; construction of major-project infrastructure, including a 300-MW

thermal power station, port facilities with bulk storage facilities suitable for 40 000-tonne ships, a dam for a 10 000 000 m3 freshwater reservoir, service and administration buildings, etc.

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Figure 1 Typical succession of lateritic facies at the Koniambo deposit

Source: Trescases (1969); Latham (1978); SLN (1985); Hatch (2000)

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1.3.1 Overview This section presents an overview of the environmental context of the Koniambo Project. International conventions and legislation, guidelines, recommendations, as well as environmental standards and criteria relevant to the project are outlined.

The preservation of plant and animal biodiversity, and of the biological resources found in the rivers, the lagoon and the mangrove, constitutes one of the major environmental issues facing any mining project in New Caledonia. Important technico-environmental issues relating to such projects also include:

the control of erosion; the preservation of air quality (through the control of atmospheric

emissions); the preservation of fresh and marine water quality (through

appropriate effluent treatment and the control of erosion); progressive mining site rehabilitation and revegetation.

The major social and human issues for the project are associated with land tenure, economic development of the North Province, a well-developed unionized work force in New Caledonia, the training and integration of local labour into the workforce, and the cultural adaptation required to create a world-class productive, low-cost operation.

1.3.2 Environmental management In New Caledonia, environmental management is the responsibility of the Territory and the provinces, each with its own jurisdiction. There is no established procedure in New Caledonia specifically for the environmental assessment of a project, and standards and criteria have been adopted only for a few types of activities or facilities (drinking water, disposal of domestic wastewaters, etc.). The Territorial Government is however currently drafting a bill targeting the adoption of a formal environmental assessment procedure, as well as environmental standards and criteria for mining projects.

The Koniambo project will be designed to comply with:

the environmental standards and criteria, international conventions, laws and regulations, policies, codes of practice, applicable in New Caledonia; World Bank standards and criteria; Canadian standards and criteria.

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In the absence of standards or criteria for a specific context, the project also considers the standards and criteria adopted by the European Community, France, Australia, the USA, and Ontario, a Canadian province where Falconbridge has major operations.

The environmental management of a major mining project comprises many phases and studies (running in parallel with the different technical and economic studies for the project), which include:

the Environmental Baseline Study (EBS); a communication program and public consultations; the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project on the

physical, biological and social aspects; the environmental monitoring and surveillance programs during

construction and commercial production; ongoing mine site rehabilitation and revegetation; post-closure environmental monitoring.

The EBS consists of an extensive description and documentation of existing environmental conditions that could have an influence on project design, or that could be influenced by the operation of the project during its life and subsequent closure.

The main objective of the EBS is to collect sufficient information to adequately characterize the different components of the natural and social environment, and determine its dynamics through time and space (i.e., how it fluctuates). The EBS must be considered a project-planning tool to incorporate environmental and social issues into the decision-making process associated with the project design, operation and closure. The EBS is the result of comprehensive literature reviews on various physical, biological and human aspects of the environment, complemented by detailed field surveys carried out as part of the Koniambo Project. The EBS provides the information required for sound project design, thoroughly discusses existing environmental conditions prior to the exploitation of the deposits4, and provides the information required for a proper evaluation of project impacts and the identification of adequate mitigation measures.

4 In some cases, however, more field work will be required to complete the data

base. For example, soils and underground water at the site of the industrial facilities will need to be characterized. Specific surveys for protected plant and animal species will also be required.

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1.3.3 Project environmental philosophy, approaches and management SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY The adoption, by Falconbridge and SMSP, of a sustainable development policy is one of the key actions taken by the two companies to ensure sustainable economic development of the Koniambo deposits.

Falconbridge and SMSP Sustainable Development Policy: Within the framework of the metallurgical project being implemented in the North Province of New Caledonia (referred to as the Koniambo Project), Falconbridge and SMSP undertake to practise sustainable development according to the principles defined.

Sustainable development is the implementation of practices and policies that promote the development of an economy, maintain a healthy environment and contribute to the well-being of the population.

Sustainable development must meet the needs of the customers, suppliers, shareholders, employees, government, communities and the general public without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In the field of the environment, the Koniambo Project undertakes to comply with the conventions, policies, laws and regulations applicable in New Caledonia; with World Bank standards and with those subscribed to by Canada.

These principles, which are in accordance with those adopted by Falconbridge in March 1999, shall guide the studies and work relating to the Koniambo Project.

Environmental policy signed on December 1999 by André DANG (President of SMSP) and Øyvind HUSHOVD (President of Falconbridge). ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL: COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS

There are a number of important international conventions related to the protection of the environment; most of them have been ratified by France and some are applicable and in force in New Caledonia. However, international conventions covering certain aspects of the project are being taken into consideration even though they are not legally applicable, so that the project can be developed in a sustainable manner. The analysis of the international and legal contexts with regards to the project and the environment permits the identification of elements that could or will be of significance during the process leading to commercial production and post-closure.

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Conventions of general application

Agenda 21 The Earth summit, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The centrepiece of the Rio Agreement, known as Agenda 21, is a comprehensive blueprint for the global actions needed to affect the transition to sustainable development in the 21st century, and consists of many chapters dealing with different aspects relevant to the project, such as the protection of the atmosphere, approaches to the planning and management of land resources, management of fragile ecosystems, sustainable mountain development, conservation of biodiversity, protection of the oceans, freshwater resources, toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, and solid waste.

Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) The Convention on Biological Diversity, and Chapter 15 of Agenda 21 commit signatory countries to a range of protection strategies, such as:

developing national strategies for biodiversity5 conservation; implementing effective environmental assessment of projects that

significantly threaten biodiversity; creating special regimes for the protection of "buffer zones"

around parks and designated wilderness areas. Specific roles of women and indigenous peoples are mentioned, and indigenous peoples are highlighted for the traditional ecological knowledge they possess. Countries are obliged to preserve, respect and protect traditional knowledge and to ensure that indigenous peoples share equitably the benefits derived from their traditional knowledge.

The potentially severe loss of biological diversity and the consequent socio-economic impacts of coral bleaching are given serious consideration, and this phenomenon is thought to be a consequence of global warming.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) The Ramsar Convention, signed on February 2, 1971, provides a national and international framework for the conservation and appropriate use of wetlands and their resources. The Convention's

5 For the purposes of this Convention, "biological diversity" or "biodiversity"

means "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems."

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mission is “the conservation and wise use of wetlands by national action and international cooperation as a mean to achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Recently, a group of people from Voh has been formed with the objective of protecting the “Cœur de Voh”6, and have this particular habitat entered on the Ramsar List.

Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific (Apia Convention) Adopted in 1976, the Apia Convention applies to New Caledonia (Act No. 88-999, October 21, 1988). The objective of the Convention is to take action for the conservation, utilization and development of the natural resources in the South Pacific region through careful planning and management for the benefit of present and future generations. The Convention aims to create protected areas for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. No such protected area has been identified within the project area.

Conventions relating to climate and air quality

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere:

at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, and within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change; to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable

manner. The greenhouse gases for which targets have been established in the Kyoto Protocol are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Conventions relating to the marine environment

Convention for the Protection of Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific (Nouméa Convention) The objective of the Nouméa Convention (November 24, 1986) is to prevent, reduce and control pollution, from any source, and to ensure sound environmental management and development of natural resources. The Convention aims to manage certain categories of pollution or activities within the 200-nautical mile zone such as

6 The “Cœur de Voh” is a mangrove located near Voh, which forms a distinctive

hearth shape when seen in flight.

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pollution from land-based sources, pollution from seabed activities, airborne pollution, dredging, waste disposal, storage of toxic and hazardous wastes, mining and coastal erosion.

Two protocols have been adopted under this Convention :

the Protocol for the prevention of pollution related to dumping at sea in the South Pacific region, adopted in 1990, mirrors the London Convention; the Protocol concerning cooperation in combating pollution aims


General – procedure for the adoption of standards and criteria (for design purposes) Environmental regulations and guidelines regarding effluent discharges, atmospheric emissions, ambient air quality, and water quality, adopted by various authorities (New Caledonia, EU, World Bank and Canada) were reviewed in relation to the main project and environmental components of the Koniambo Project. The guidelines, standards and criteria from the European Economic Community (EEC) for various project components were also included, as well as drinking water standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This review permitted an initial selection of the standards and the criteria that should be used as the baseline case for the design and all other aspects of the project. Among the standards, criteria and guidelines currently adopted or proposed by these different institutions, the most restrictive ones were retained for the Koniambo Project.

The natural background of parameters, as well as the sensitivity of the environmental components and the treatment or analytical technologies available, influence the application of the standards and criteria adopted. When necessary, other standards and criteria may be adopted. These criteria will then ensure the protection of the environmental components as well as a realistic project management.

The specific environmental context of the project, as well as the application conditions for the various standards and criteria must be carefully considered to ensure sound environmental management. Standards and criteria exist for:

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ambient air quality; atmospheric emissions; aquatic and marine waters (protection of fauna); raw water; drinking water; domestic and industrial effluents; marine and freshwater sediments, for the protection of the flora

and fauna, and dredging purposes; soils, etc.

1.3.4 Legal context in New Caledonia Before the adoption of the Organic Act, authority in the field of environment and rivers was given to the Provinces (in 1989 and 1997, respectively). With the adoption of the Organic Act, additional powers have been transferred to the Territory of New Caledonia on January 1, 2000. The authority to adopt regulations about the traditional civil status, tribal lands as well as the exploration, exploitation, management and conservation of natural resources of the Exclusive Economic Zone and of certain products (such as hydrocarbons, nickel, chromium and cobalt) figure among these new powers (see section 22 of the Organic Act: Loi no. 99-209 du 19 mars 1999 organique relative à la Nouvelle-Calédonie).

Currently, few New Caledonian regulations and policies regarding mining operations have been adopted. However, section 222 of the Organic Act states that Acts and Orders that are now under the jurisdiction of New Caledonia or its Provinces can be modified. ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS AND POLICIES Policies in the North Province are essentially geared towards developing basic infrastructure. The Province is focusing on the potential of their lagoon resources, and has commissioned studies to identify and define avenues for sustainable development. However, there is currently no policy adopted for the conservation of reef species.

The North Province is currently working on an overall environmental action plan. This will involve assessing the different types of environmental damages and their degree of severity, proposing an overall policy and preparing an action plan, as well as establishing an environmental authority. Recommendations stress the need to integrate land-based pollution and problems related to the degradation of the environment, as well as the protection of marine areas.

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Although environmental protection is strictly a provincial matter, the sharing of various other powers between the State, the Territory and the Provinces complicates the issues involved in managing and protecting the environment. As for the marine environment, the Provinces have the power whenever this does not interfere with State sovereignty (as in the case of protected marine areas). Regulations on the use and protection of species are under provincial authority. Enforcement and surveillance are territorial matters, but the Provinces also deploy substantial means of surveillance. The State is responsible for controlling accidental marine pollution (under the MARPOL Convention) and for applying the principles of international conventions.

All regulations applying to the lagoon are under the authority of the Territory, except for those stemming from provincial resolutions concerning marine parks and reserves. Fishing regulations were placed under the provincial authorities in 1995, although territorial rules still apply as long as the Provinces do not modify it.

New Caledonian acts have been implemented to enforce the London Convention (ex.: Loi no. 76-599 du 7 juillet 1976 relative à la prévention et à la repression de la pollution marine par les opérations d'immersion). Measures to be implemented under these Conventions are either under the jurisdiction of the State (discharges from vessels) or the Provinces (discharge from the coast). MINING REGULATIONS IN NEW CALEDONIA The regulations in force sets out the general rules for mining exploration and exploitation. A bill establishing the rules for the opening and rehabilitation of a mine is being prepared.

This bill modifies the rules for the exploitation of mineral substances in New Caledonia. The objective is to ensure compliance with the obligations and constraints associated with public and employee health and safety, as well as the protection of the environment. During the exploitation period, the holder of the concessions has to present an annual report on the effects of its operations on the main environmental characteristics and on land occupation.

Appended to the bill is a decree involving mining police and detailing the conditions applicable to mining activities. The role of the mining police is to identify, report and take the necessary steps to stop any damage caused by mining activities. Mining exploration and exploitation are governed by decree. The mining police oversees the mine development activities as well as the facilities essential to mining operations.

Authorization must be obtained from the Services des Mines et de l’Énergie for mining exploration and development. Following the submission of an application, public consultations are held.

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Furthermore, the decree, once adopted, will require an environmental assessment before mining activities are initiated. REGISTERED FACILITIES The Provinces have authority over registered facilities (Délibération no. 145-95/APN du 12 octobre 1995 relative aux installations classées pour la protection de l’environnement). These facilities must be authorized by (or declared to) the provincial authorities. Owing to environmental concerns or health and safety hazards, many industrial activities or facilities, are subject to this resolution. They include: fuel depots and filling/distribution facilities; combustion facilities (e.g. power plants); crushing, grinding and screening of natural mineral products,

including ore and rocks for the production of aggregates; treatment of copper and/or nickel ore; pyrometallurgical treatment facilities for the extraction of metals; sulphuric acid storage and production facilities; mechanical and paint shops for the maintenance and repair of

motor vehicles and engines; wastewater treatment facilities; refrigeration and/or compression facilities.

In addition rehabilitation activities, including decontamination and stabilization, are under the jurisdiction of the Provinces.

Generally, in the case of large-scale facilities, authorization to build and operate has to be obtained by the holder. An environmental assessment (EA) and a risk assessment study have to be submitted to the President of the Province. The authorization process is completed with public consultations. Authorization is obtained, by order, (“arrêté”) from the President of the Province. A monitoring program is then implemented to ensure the effectiveness of the measures prescribed in the environmental assessment.

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The Environmental Baseline Study (EBS) should be viewed as a progress report on our current understanding of the physical, biological and human characteristics of the environment in which the project will be designed and operated for at least 25 years. The EBS is seen as a progress report because of the monitoring programs already in place or being defined, which will provide additional and specific information for a better understanding of the environment. The information presented in the EBS mainly comes from literature reviews and recently completed field work.

2.1 Components of the physical environment: General characteristics

2.2 Components of the physical environment: Continental aspects

2.3 Biological components of the continental environment

2.4 Physical and biological components of the marine environment

2.5 Human and social components of the environment

Our current knowledge of many biological aspects in New Caledonia is, however, still limited. The scientific literature is mostly descriptive, and often outlines the characteristics and other taxonomic features of newly discovered species. However, some studies do provide useful information (such as, life cycle, habitat preferences, reproduction and feeding habits, spatio-temporal variations in abundance, population structure and dynamics, and causes of mortality).

Overall, with the effort invested in the literature research, and the time taken to review and analyze the information, a good, adequate understanding of the biophysical and human environments has been achieved. The understanding of the environment, along with the knowledge of the general aspects of the project, has allowed us to identify the environmental issues, and define the Environmental Impact Assessment.


2.1.1 Climate Map 3 (in sleeve) is a synoptic map of the environmental aspects of the project, which, among other things, shows the location of the meteorological stations and rain gauges in the vicinity of the Koniambo Massif. Most of the meteorological data, and the analysis of the Territorial, regional and local climate, is derived from Meteo

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France, which has proven to be, through collaboration, a useful and efficient way of acquiring this information for the Koniambo Project. GENERAL DESCRIPTION New Caledonia is located in an area influenced by several climatic and geographic factors that create a sharply contrasting and irregular climate in the archipelago; the climate is described as oceanic tropical.

Among the geographic factors that have a significant influence over the climate are: the mountain range (the Central Chain), which divides the territory longitudinally, and the tempering effect of the ocean surrounding the territory.

Climate characteristics of New Caledonia are also influenced by cyclone activity, a major and regular risk for the archipelago during the warm season (December to April). Other factors that also have a non-negligible effect on the climate are:

the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) phenomenon, affecting cyclone activity and rainfall; easterlies, which regularly blow from East-South-East with

moderate to strong velocities; they limit maximum temperatures and are responsible (with the topography) for the unequal rainfall distribution; seasons, with warm and humid summers, owing to the proximity

of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and cool and dry winters (caused by cold fronts from the polar circle).

Although the climate is generally very comfortable, all of the above factors contribute to climatic irregularity, which is seen in the large spatial and temporal variations in rain and wind patterns. Extreme meteorological conditions can represent a danger for humans and infrastructures. CYCLONE ACTIVITY AND TROPICAL STORMS New Caledonia is located in the area of maximum cyclone activity in the Southwest Pacific basin. The cyclone season extends from December to April (90% of cyclone events), and peaks in February. The extremely strong winds and very heavy rainfall are the main sources of damage from natural causes. Moreover, storm floods can be particularly disastrous in estuaries where the storm tide is already strong, and forms a virtual dam against river waters, preventing the flood waters from being discharged into the sea, and hence flooding adjoining lands. Statistics over the 1968-1997 period show that cyclone activity in New Caledonia has a mean of 5,2 cyclone

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phenomena7 (including 2,4 cyclones) per season. During the 30-year period between 1947/48 and 1977/78, from 20 to 29 cyclones and moderate to strong tropical depressions passed within the vicinity of the project area. The risk related to cyclones is real and damage can be severe.

Of these cyclone phenomena, nine cyclones passed over New Caledonia. Average maximum wind speeds of over 40 m/s (144 km/h) have been recorded with maximum instantaneous wind velocities of up to 53 m/s (191 km/h). Satellite storm monitoring systems have estimated peak wind speeds as high as 57 m/s (205 km/h). The maximum 24-hour rainfall recorded with these events in New Caledonia was 352,0 mm. RAINFALL The main characteristic of rainfall in New Caledonia is its geographical, seasonal and annual irregularity. Topography and prevailing wind direction greatly influence geographic distribution. The East Coast (into the wind) thus receives much more rainfall than the West Coast (downwind): typical annual rainfall varies from 800 to 1200 mm on the West Coast and from 1750 to 4000 mm on the East Coast. At Koné airport, the mean annual rainfall, calculated for a 77-year period (1922-1998), is 1146 mm (annual minimum: 481 mm; annual maximum: 2274 mm; standard deviation: 323 mm). The variation over the years is largely due to ENSO phases, which cause abundant rainfall during La Niña episodes, and severe drought during El Niño episodes.

Rainfall is also dependent on altitude, with the summits receiving more rain than the plains (more than 4000 mm per year for certain eastward summits). At the Koniambo summit, Météo France estimates annual rainfall to be more than 2500 mm.

The annual cycle comprises two seasons: the rainy season (December to March), during which the influence of cyclone activity and hot and humid air masses means abundant rainfall, and the dry season (September to November) when the archipelago is influenced by stable anticyclone air masses (Figure 2). The April to August period has moderate, more regular rainfall of 50-100 mm per month.

Rainfall intensity on New Caledonia summits is of the same order of magnitude as world records. Over a 24-hour period, at Poindimié (a station thought to be representative of the conditions at Koniambo), maximum rainfall with a 2-year recurrence period is 189,9 mm; it reaches 504,0 mm with a 100-year recurrence period. Maximum daily rainfall at Koné airport is 112,3 mm (2-year recurrence period), 204,6 mm (10-year recurrence period) and 319,7 mm (100-year recurrence period). The record 24-hour rainfall (363 mm) on the west

7 Cyclones and moderate to strong tropical depressions.

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coast of New Caledonia occurred at Gomen in 1951. Measured rainfall intensity at Noumea has been recorded at levels as high as 124 mm/h over 15 minutes, 106 mm/h over 30 minutes, and 55 mm/h over one hour. Intensities greater than 50 mm/h for one hour are rare.









Percentile 80 Percentile 20












June July














Source : Météo France (2000)

Figure 2 Total monthly rainfall in Koné (1922-1998)

At Koné, about 15% of the total rainfall occurs as events of less than 1,0 mm. WIND Although the easterlies generally come from the ESE, at a local scale, the topography has a significant influence on wind conditions. In Koné, winds are generally from the ENE (51%) or SW (15%).

Extreme winds are generated during the warm season, by the depressions or tropical cyclones. During the dry season, these extreme winds come from cold fronts that generate violent westerly winds (above 80 km/h), especially on the West Coast and South of the archipelago. The observed records of maximum instantaneous wind velocities are 230 km/h at high altitude (Montagne des Sources, 780 m) and 184 km/h along the coast (Koumac, 23 m). TEMPERATURE The sea breeze occurring during the day tempers atmospheric temperatures, so that the recorded maximum temperature is only 38,8°C (Poya station, in 1968). However, the minimum temperatures

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recorded are relatively cold for these latitudes (minimum record low temperature of 2,3°C in Bourail, in 1965).

At low altitude, mean annual temperatures over the Territory vary between 22 and 24°C, with an annual temperature range of about 6 to 7°C.

The daily mean maximum temperature is greater than 31°C in Koné from December to March, while it is close to 25°C at high altitude. During the cool season, the mean maximum temperature is about 18°C at high altitude and 25°C on the plains. EVAPORATION, EVAPOTRANSPIRATION AND RELATIVE HUMIDITY

Evaporation averages 3,2 mm to 3,8 mm per day, and is highest during the third quarter of the year. On an annual basis, evaporation measured with a Piché evaporimeter varies from 1160 mm at Koumac to 1375 mm at Tontouta (ORSTOM, 1981). Evaporation is at a minimum from May to July, with an average of only 2,6 mm to 3,0 mm per day, and is at its highest during the last quarter of the year, when it reaches an average of 3,9 mm to 5,2 mm per day. Under the combined effect of wind and sun, values greater than 7,0 mm per day have been observed.

Mean evapotranspiration (Penman) varies between 1300 and 1500 mm per year. The highest values occur from October to February (figures 3 and 4). Climatic potential evapotranspiration (CPE) depends on meteorological conditions (temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) and varies according to an annual cycle with daily averages between 5 mm and 6 mm in summer, and 2,5 mm to 3,5 mm in winter. Periods of negative water balance are regularly observed (when evapotranspiration is greater than rainfall), as in Koumac from April to December.

Maximum relative humidity occurs during the warm season, with the average varying between 75% and 80%. Minimum relative humidity occurs at the end of the cool season and rarely falls below 50%.

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ly m




RR (1961-1998) ETP (1982-1998)

Figure 3 Monthly distribution of rainfall (RR) and evapotranspiration (ETP) at Koumac (West Coast)

































ly m




RR (1965-1998) ETP (1986-1998)

Figure 4 Monthly distribution of rainfall (RR) and evapotranspiration (ETP) at Poindimié (East Coast) FOG, THUNDERSHOWERS AND VISIBILITY Fog is observed when horizontal visibility is less than 1000 m, while mist is present when visibility is between 1000 m and 5000 m. Because of the sea breeze, fog rarely forms. It is generally observed only locally, at the bottom of the valleys. Thus, visibility is generally good and is only affected by heavy rainfall.

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Thundershower activity usually does not represent a major risk. It is more intense in the mountains than on the plains. In Koumac, thunderstorms mostly occur during the warm season, with an average of 11,4 days of thunderstorm occurrence.

2.1.2 Air quality and atmospheric emissions Ambient air quality in New Caledonia and atmospheric emissions from pyrometallurgical plants and from thermal power stations were reviewed with regards to particulate matter, sulphur dioxide (SO2), as well as nitrous (NOx) and carbon oxides (COx).

Ambient air quality has not been characterized nor monitored in the project area. However, there are monitoring stations close to the Doniambo plant (near Nouméa). At these stations, the average values pertaining to dust and SO2 meet the criteria recommended by the EEC as well as other international standards. It was however not possible to assess extreme conditions, since no recorded data was available.

The only significant atmospheric contamination sources known to be located in the study area are bush fires, trucking, landscaping work, and wind erosion. As prevailing winds are ENE, contaminants are mainly directed towards the sea.


The information gathered on the physical environment was obtained through comprehensive literature reviews. In addition, field surveys related to pedology, hydrology and water quality were carried out in the study area. Also, permanent meteorological, hydrological as well as water and sediment sampling stations were set up in the study area to monitor the natural environmental variability and the effects of human activities.

2.2.1 Geology New Caledonia is typically divided into three vast geological domains: 1) the West Coast; 2) the Central Chain; 3) North Caledonia. These divisions reflect the geological evolution of the island; the oldest formations date from the Triassic, and are therefore about 200 million years old.

During this evolution, various sedimentation and volcanism cycles alternated with one another according to the uprisings, marine transgressions, or the proximity to active tectonic zones.

The determining event in the geological history of the island was the Alpine Orogen (40 million years ago); during this time vast sheets of peridotite were thrusted, by obduction, over a large part of the island.

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These peridotite masses (the Koniambo Massif is a good example) mostly comprise olivine, serpentine and pyroxene; they are also the host rock to the numerous nickel deposits found on the island.

Minerals in the peridotite only contain small fractions of nickel. The alteration shows up as a quite characteristic profile on the peridotites (see Figure 1).

The weathering process for the peridotites consists of a progressive dissolution of the magnesia and silica, while other elements such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and aluminium remain as oxides or hydroxides in the decomposed lateritic material. Thus, as time progresses, the relative concentration of the remnant elements increases. The weathering process is initiated at the joints and fractures that exist within the near-surface regions of the peridotite bodies. As the alteration process continues, boulders of jointed/fractured peridotite are surrounded by the weathered product, which progressively replaces the fresh rock until it has been completely altered. This describes the initial formation of the saprolite. The overlying limonite is formed after considerable leaching of the silica and magnesia from the saprolite. The alteration profile is thus divided over time into two primary groups consisting of limonitic material composed of remnant iron hydroxide, and saprolitic material in which the silica and magnesia are the main constituents.

The mining of the Koniambo deposits will be carried out in a manner similar to that of any other garnierite deposit in New Caledonia (i.e., by open pits). The overlying waste rock is composed of a ferricrete and low-nickel-content laterites, to which are added unaltered peridotite blocks located in the garnierite. The mineralized laterites untreated by pyrometallurgy will be stockpiled for an eventual processing. The ore will mostly consist of garnierite (nickel-enriched saprolite). The resource is currently covering a surface area of about 40 square kilometres.

The Koniambo massif covers 65% of the study area; mafic volcanic rocks, sedimentary rocks and alluvial deposits account for the remaining 35%.

Seismic activity in the area is related to a subduction zone located near Vanuatu, 700 km northeast from New Caledonia. A total of 16 earthquakes of magnitude 2 or greater have been reported, with epicentres within 300 km of the project site (magnitudes of between 3,5 and 5,7) from 1973 to 1996. With depths ranging from 11 to 33 km below the surface, these earthquakes are shallow. Accelerations resulting from earthquakes of these magnitudes would be about 20 to 50 cm/s2 (Hatch, 2000). A design value of 100 cm/s2 is currently considered.

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2.2.2 Physiography and geomorphology GENERAL New Caledonia has the aspect of a long and narrow mountain island. Several summits reach an altitude of 1000 metres, the highest ones being Mount Panié (1628 m) and Mount Humboldt (1618 m). The east and west coasts are quite asymmetric with a smooth landscape to the west and steep cliffs on the east side.

Together, geological and climatic evolutions contributed to the island’s four vast geomorphological units:

ultramafic rocks, found on about one third of the island, with steep relief, cut by deep valleys; sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of the NE Coast, also

showing steep relief and cut by NW-SE faults; sedimentary and volcanic rocks from the Central Chain, with

medium-height hills; the West Coast, characterized by alluvial plains separated by

steep massifs of ultramafic rocks (elevation 900 m) or volcanic and sedimentary hills (elevation 200 m).

The specific study area belongs to the West Coast, while the study area reaches out more to the east in the Central Chain. The limit of the specific study area is a major physiographic feature, the West Caledonian accident, a NW-SE structure which corresponds to a depression.

The island's unconsolidated deposits are the result of intense weathering, erosion and transport. The tropical climate favours the development of various alteration profiles. These profiles are especially pronounced in the peridotites, which, due to their chemical composition, quickly alter to saprolites then laterites (Figure 1). On ancient upper levels of peridotites, red limonites are often indurated on the surface. Below, yellow limonites sometimes reaching a thickness of more than ten metres, can be observed. Elsewhere, in the consolidated sedimentary formations, soils can be altered over several metres, especially if the schistosity is near vertical, since water penetration is facilitated. All these altered rocks are prone to erosion. As they are broken down, they form slope soils (with a rather coarse grain size), foothill soils, and eventually, stream terraces (with a fine grain size) along the shores. WATERSHED PHYSIOGRAPHY OF THE KONIAMBO Watersheds draining the southwest slope of the Koniambo are very small, with surface areas ranging between 8 km² and 42 km², while other drainage basins surrounding the Koniambo have much larger surface areas (between 140 km² and 300 km²). The upstream

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sections of watersheds have very steep slopes, varying between 15 and 25%, followed by a plain that stretches to the sea. In general, soils are not very permeable, and vegetation is scarce. All these factors contribute to important surface runoff coefficients, which is especially high during periods of heavy rains.

2.2.3 Pedology Soil characteristics of the study area were established by reviewing various studies and surveys carried out in New Caledonia between 1972 and 2000 by the North Province (DAF). A few soil samples were also collected and analyzed as part of the Koniambo Project study.

Very few types of soil in the study area have agricultural potential. Soils with a medium to high fertility potential occupy 525 km2, or 27% of the study area. The agricultural use of the soil (crops, pastures or ranching) is especially concentrated near Voh, Koné and Pouembout communes.

Complete meteorological station at the summit of the


2.2.4 Hydrology and hydrogeology HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL NETWORK New Caledonia’s hydrometeorological network is very dense. Météo France has 35 monitoring stations in the North Province alone. Several pluviometric data sets are available for the last 50 years, and some cover close to 80 years.

The DAF (Direction de l’Agriculture et de la Forêt) and the DAN (Direction de l’Aménagement de la province Nord) also have several rain gauges and three limnimetric stations in operation. Falconbridge New Caledonia has installed a complete meteorological station at the summit of the Koniambo. Another meteorological station will be installed at the site of the projected facilities. Two rain gauges and five water level stations, equipped with water level scales and maximum level gauges (Map 3, in sleeve), have also been installed within the study area (on Témala, Coco, Pandanus, Voh and Koné rivers). FLOODS New Caledonian rivers are known for their very violent floods, caused by heavy rains associated with the passage of depressions and cyclones, and the rapid response of drainage basins. Three typical parameters are characteristic of rainfalls on the New Caledonia West Coast:

extremely rapid rising and ebb rates (at Boutana, the measured rising rates vary from 0,8 to 2,5 m/h); Koné River in flood

a constant rainfall intensity;

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a very fast reaction of the watersheds, due to the steep slopes, the low permeability, and their relatively small surface area.

Table 3 shows the main results of a statistical analysis on the annual instantaneous peak flows of the Pouembout River, at the Boutana station. The maximum estimated flow at this station is 2080 m³/s, when the ESAU cyclone passed by on March 5, 1992.

Table 3 Annual instantaneous peak flows and specific flows of the Pouembout River, at the Boutana station

Recurrence period (years)

Peak flow(1) (Qp) (m3/s)

Specific flow(2) (m3/s/km2)

Ratio (Qp / Qa)

Mean annual flow (Qa) 2,44(3) 0,014 --- 2 150 0,85 61 5 920 5,23 377

10 1400 7,95 574 20 1840 10,45 754 50 2400 13,64 984 100 2870 16,31 1176

Notes: (1) According to Hydrex (1997); double Gumbel distribution based on 33 years of data (1955-1996).

(2) 176-km² watershed. (3) According to Coyne and Bellier (1999).

For 10- to 100-year recurrence periods, flood specific flows vary between 8 and 16 m³/s/km², which is relatively high for a tropical climate. LOW FLOW PERIODS Low flow periods, for rivers on the West Coast of New Caledonia, are very severe and typical of tropical climates. Low flow periods generally occur from August to November. In the coastal plain, the low flow is practically null for some rivers. Evapotranspiration contributes to exacerbate these low flow conditions.

On a monthly basis, in the upstream sectors, evapotranspiration is much greater than rainfall (Figure 3). Such is not the case for the plain (Figure 4), though. However, annual rainfall varies greatly from one year to another (Table 3). During years with very low rainfall, several rivers may run dry. Moreover, low flow periods can last up to six months during years with severe low-flow periods. MEAN SPECIFIC FLOW Mean specific flow of rivers in the study area varies from 6 to 19 l/s/km² (Coyne and Bellier, 2000). SEDIMENTOLOGY Most river sediment transportation occurs during floods. The annual suspended sediment load of a river has been estimated using the Milliman method. For the watershed of the Pouembout River

Stream-derived plume spreading through the lagoon beyond the

Passe de Koné

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(297 km²), the annual sediment load is estimated at 84 600 tonnes, or 285 tonnes/km²/year. The yearly sediment input to the Koné Lagoon and Chasseloup Bay is, respectively, about 0,92 Mt and 1,9 Mt (NSR, 2001). These rates are high, but still in the range of values characteristic of tropical zones with steep slopes.

The volume of sediments transported varies a great deal from one year to another, depending on the number and the intensity of depressions and cyclones. Moreover, the mean specific annual sediment load can be 5 to 10 times higher in watersheds where there was deforestation or mining activity. Rising stage samplers (RSS) were installed at four sites along the rivers of the study area to monitor suspended sediments during high water levels (see Map 3 for location of the RSS stations). HYDROGEOLOGY Unaltered rock formations in New Caledonia are known to have a low permeability or to be impervious, and thus have low aquifer potential. Recent alluvia offer the best aquifer potential, but the size of the aquifers remains limited. Facilities for pumping underground waters are located in recent alluvia, namely perpendicular to the main rivers' lower courses (Voh, Koné, Pouembout and Témala). Recent alluvia are limited in size, and only represent a small proportion of the study area. They are located in zones with relatively high population density and extensive agricultural activities.

Recent alluvia are limited to a narrow strip of a few dozen to a few hundred meters wide in the upper and mid courses of rivers. Alluvial plains of the main rivers widen toward the coast, and form deltas and estuaries one to four kilometres wide. Mean transmissivity of the coarser recent alluvia in which wells were drilled is generally comprised between 10-3 to 10-1 m2/s. The thickness of alluvial deposits, as observed during well drilling, generally ranges between 10 and 30 metres. This thickness can reach more than 50 metres locally, in the downstream portion of the drainage basins, close to coastal marshes.

The dynamic balance between fresh water and salt water in the coastal area is precarious, and there is a real danger of saltwater intrusion into freshwater coastal aquifers when underground waters are pumped aggressively.

The current knowledge on groundwater resources contained in alluvial aquifers remains partial, but the known groundwater resources in the study area are limited, and insufficient for project needs (A2EP, 1999). The only significant groundwater sources are located in recent alluvia in the main river valleys, namely the alluvial plains of the Témala, Voh, Koné and Pouembout systems, and these resources are dedicated to agricultural and municipal supplies.

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2.2.5 Water and sediment quality in watercourses The DAF (Direction de l’Agriculture et de la Forêt) has been conducting a monitoring program on the major rivers in the North Province since 1992, to assess the quality of water for human consumption. As an example, Table 4 presents the results from the analysis of water samples collected during low-water periods from 1992 to 1999 by the DAF, and in November 2000, as part of the Koniambo Project. Freshwater sediments were also sampled in 2000 as part of the Koniambo project (Table 5).

Table 4 Descriptive statistics of water quality characteristics of rivers within the study area and during low-water periods - Data gathered from 1992 to 1999 by the DAF (Direction de l'Agriculture et de la Forêt), and by Falconbridge NC in 2000, as part of the Koniambo Project

Parameter UnitSample size (number of

values)Mean Standard

deviationLowest value (minimum)

Highest value (maximum)

Basic physico-chemical characteristics

Temperature °C 236 25,1 3,5 16,0 33,0

pH pH 239 7,4 S/O 6,1 9,3

Turbidity N.T.U. 74 2,5 4,6 0,1 37,3

Conductivity µS/cm 225 272 142 52 906

COD (Chemical oxygen demand) mg O2/l 103 7,0 8,7 0,4 43,1

BOD5 (5-day biochemical oxygen demand) mg O2/l 220 1,8 2,3 <0,1 19,8

TSS (Total suspended solids) mg/l 238 19 58 <0,1 590

Dissolved oxygen % 176 63,9 33,9 0,3 128,8

Dissolved oxygen mg O2/l 121 5,4 2,8 0,02 10,9

Total hardness mg CaCO3/l 111 127 88 12 445

Total alkalinity mg CaCO3/l 88 128 100 24 567

Major ions and nutrients

Chlorides mg Cl/l 203 16,1 17,4 2,9 151,5

Sodium mg Na/l 92 12,8 12,4 2 89,9

Phosphates mg P/l 108 0,03 0,04 <0,01 0,26

Sulfates mg SO4/l 214 5,8 5,6 0,3 37,0

Ammonium mg NH4/l 225 0,08 0,14 <0,01 0,93

TKN (Total Kjeldahl nitrogen) mg N/l 85 1,0 0,9 <0,1 3,9

Nitrates mg NO3/l 237 0,48 1,0 <0,01 7,70

Nitrites mg NO2/l 106 0,02 0,02 <0,01 0,14

Total metals

Chromium (Cr) mg Cr/l 81 0,006 0,010 <0,001 0,071

Iron (Fe) mg Fe/l 190 0,21 0,34 <0,01 4,16

Manganese (Mn) mg Mn/l 120 0,232 0,542 <0,001 4,233

Nickel (Ni) mg Ni/l 193 0,009 0,028 <0,001 0,385


Thermotolerant (fecal) coliforms U.F.C./100 ml 223 495 6 091 0 91 000

Total coliforms U.F.C./100 ml 174 2 187 21 664 0 286 000

Fecal streptococci U.F.C./100 ml 223 112 242 0 1 980

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Table 5 Descriptive statistics for sediment quality characteristics (samples taken in November 2000)

Parameter UnitSample size (number of

values)Mean Standard

deviationLowest value

(minimum)Highest value














Basic physico-chemical characteristicsAmmoniac mg/kg 24 10 2 <20TKN (Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (except NO3) mg/kg 24 275 173 62Total phosphorous (P) mg/kg 24 264 196 25Humidity percentage (dried at 103oC) % 24 19,42 8,58 8Volatil solids (dried at 550oC) % 24 20,8 62,0 2,6Total sulphur % 24 0,02 0,02 0,01Granulometry0 to 2 µm (clay) % 3 15,5 18,1 4,62 to 62,5 µm (silt) % 24 4,5 12,1 0,10 to 62,5 µm (silt and clay) % 24 6,4 19,6 0,162,5 to 250 µm (fine sand) % 24 1,7 2,1 0,1250 to 2000 µm (medium and coarse sand) % 24 30,6 23,6 0,72000 to 4000 µm (granule) % 24 17,5 7,4 0>4000 µm (pebble, cobble and boulder) % 24 43,8 27,5 0Total metalsSilver (Ag) mg/kg 24 0,1 0,1 <0,1Arsenic (As) mg/kg 24 2,1 1,0 0,3Cadmium (Cd) mg/kg 24 0,1 0,0 <0,1Chromium (Cr) mg/kg 24 1318 2336 6Cobalt (Co) mg/kg 24 140 255 3Copper (Cu) mg/kg 24 9 17 <1Iron (Fe) mg/kg 24 7,01 9,62 <0,01Magnesium (Mg) mg/kg 24 14683 15447 1550Manganese (Mn) mg/kg 24 902 1229 108Nickel (Ni) mg/kg 24 1554 2524 4Lead (Pb) mg/kg 24 4 3 <1Zinc (Zn) mg/kg 24 55 56 15Aluminium (Al) mg/kg 24 6743 4776 2500Mercury (Hg) mg/kg 24 0,08 0,08 <0,1OrganicsCyanides mg/kg 23 2 4 1TOC (Total organic carbon) % 24 0,20 0,18 0,06Petroleum hydrocarbons mg/kg 24 52 10 <100Total oil and grease mg/kg 24 52 10 <100Mineral oil and grease mg/kg 24 52 10 <100Organic matter % 24 1,1 1,4 0,2Total PAH's (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) o mg/kg 4 0,005 0 <0,01Total PCB's (Polychlorinated biphenyls) mg/kg 4 0,0025 0 <0,005Total HCB (hexachlorobenzene) mg/kg 4 0,00025 0 <0,005Total DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) mg/kg 4 0,00025 0 <0,005Dieldrine mg/kg 4 0,00025 0 <0,005Endrine mg/kg 4 0,00025 0 <0,005Heptachlorine mg/kg 4 0,00025 0 <0,005Mirex mg/kg 4 0,25 0 <0,5Toxaphene mg/kg 4 0,25 0 <0,5

Notes :

o Total PAH’s is the sum of 16 compounds: Acenaphtene, Acenaphtylene, Anthracene, Benzo(k)fluoranthene, Benzo(b)fluorene, Benzo(a)anthracene, Benzo(a)pyrene, Benzo(g,h.i)perylene, Chrysene, Dibenzo(a,h)anthracene, Fluoranthene, Fluorene, Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, Naphthalene, Phenanthrene, and Pyrene

The results were compared with international standards selected for this project. The comparison showed that the high concentrations of bacteria (coliforms and streptococci) observed in the rivers prohibit human consumption of surface waters without prior treatment, but they were acceptable for swimming. The presence of bacteria in many watercourses is due to cattle raising within the water bassin, and to the absence of adequate domestic wastewater treatment facilities.

Cadmium was found in relatively high concentrations. Nickel, zinc, copper, iron, manganese and aluminium were also occasionally in concentrations higher than the water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life. However, the concentration of metals in water is

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closely related to local geology and thus, these high concentrations are of natural origin, and aquatic organisms may be adapted to these particular conditions. The important charge of anthropogenic organic matter results in high biochemical oxygen demand (BDO5) and relatively low dissolved oxygen concentrations, which could affect aquatic life.

The agropastoral activities in the watersheds results in high concentrations of nitrates and total phosphorus, which can cause negative indirect effects on aquatic life through algae proliferation. The high concentrations of ammonia originates from recent pollution (e.g., urine and excrement from cattle, domestic wastewaters) and could have deleterious effects on aquatic fauna. The concentration of total suspended solids (TSS) could be high during the rainy season and can have negative effects on aquatic fauna. In general, the continental waters can be described as slightly hard to hard, neutral (neither acid nor alkaline), quite turbid, and characterized by a variable conductivity.

The sediment showed that they are mainly composed of large fractions (boulders, cobbles, granules, medium and coarse sands). The nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) concentrations are low. Most of the sampling stations present high levels of chromium, cobalt, iron, nickel and manganese that could affect benthic organisms.


Information on the biological communities in the continental environment was obtained through comprehensive reviews of the national and international literature on plants and wildlife. In addition, field surveys were carried out on plant, benthic and fish communities in the study area.

2.3.1 Flora and fauna – General status in New Caledonia New Caledonia is recognized throughout the world as a region that significantly contributes to the world’s biodiversity. This recognition is based on the number of plant species and their level of endemicity. There are about 4780 species of vascular plants in New Caledonia, of which 1400 were introduced or cultivated. Over 76% of the plant species are endemic to New Caledonia (Jaffré et al., 1998). Moreover, 14,4% of New Caledonia plant species, or 480, are included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, either because they are extinct (5), threatened (160), vulnerable (214), rare (91), or with a yet undetermined status (WCMC, 1997).

New Caledonia’s insular context and the presence of ultramafic substrates with specific characteristics (soils rich in Cr, Mg, Ni, and low in Ca) can explain the existence of many endemic plant species.

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New Caledonian continental fauna is mainly represented by invertebrates, indicating a level of endemism similar to that of the flora (Chazeau, 1995). The vertebrate fauna is represented by a significantly lower number of species, showing a variable level of endemism. Among the continental vertebrates, the reptiles show the highest level of endemism (46 endemic species out of a total of 71, or 65%), followed by birds (about 35 endemic species out of a total of 75, or 47%) and mammals, with only a few species of bats that are endemic. The fauna does not include many mammals, except for the rusa deer and a wild pig, that were introduced, as well as a few bats and rats. Furthermore, the only amphibian species (a frog) living on Grande Terre (Litoria aurea) has been introduced. The fauna is, however, rich in endemic birds8. It is also special owing to the originality of its invertebrate fauna (insects and snails) and its geckos and other lizards. Moreover, a study on the invertebrate fauna of a few natural sites on ultramafic soils in New Caledonia highlighted a local endemism at both the specific and generic levels (Chazeau, 1995).

The biodiversity preservation issue is complicated since the accidentally or intentionally introduced species may interfere with the natural balance of New Caledonian ecosystems. For example, some of the introduced plant species can establish themselves more readily in mining waste and slash burn sites than local species. This too is a threat to biodiversity in mining areas, because natural regrassing only takes place on settled wastes and the least exposed scoured rocks. Although most mines were abandoned more than 20 years ago, the vegetation in these areas is still very scarce, and composed of species that are already widespread.

2.3.2 Terrestrial plants GENERAL The specific study area (see Map 3) is composed of six (6) different plant formations, in which more than 650 plant species are found. Among these, four species (Boronella koniamboensis, Solanum kafeatensis, Scleria papuana and Oxera sp.) have been observed only on the Koniambo Massif. The plant endemic rate of the specific study area (75%) is about the same as that of New Caledonia (76%).

Forty-seven plant species with a special status (i.e. a species included in the IUCN Red List) were identified in surveys carried out in the study area. They represent 12% of all the plant species with a special status in New Caledonia. All of these species are endemic to New Caledonia. Thirty-three species were observed only in the

8 New Caledonia is among the top fifty countries with the highest number of

endemic birds (WCMC, 1994). More details are presented in sections 2.3.6 and 2.3.7.

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mining maquis, on ultrabasic rocks at low and mid-altitudes. Two other species were observed only in the low to mid-altitude sclerophyllous forest, and thirteen species were seen within more than one plant formation.

The types of plant formations in the specific study area showing the greatest richness are, in decreasing order, the mining maquis, evergreen forest, marsh forest and the savannah.

The Koniambo Massif is characterized mainly by the mining maquis. According to Jaffré (1974), the vegetation of the Massif has been affected by previous mining activities. The mines as such caused rather limited damage, but the fires ignited by people and excessive clearing carried out for mining triggered a considerable regression in the forest cover, even completely destroying the forest in certain areas (Jaffré, 1974). Compared with other massifs (e.g., Boulinda Massif, Grand Massif), the vegetation of the Koniambo Massif is less diversified. Plant formations that remain today are mostly composed of woody or bushy woody-herbaceous species, and are locally called "mining maquis".

There is no area designated for the protection of vegetation on the Koniambo Massif. There are, however, regulated areas, named “périmètre protégé”, for the protection of water resources, where plants are indirectly protected from development. Certain species living on the Koniambo Massif have not been observed elsewhere on the planet. There are still strips of original forests confined to certain well-protected thalwegs9 and to certain peaks and summit plateaux. Besides their exceptional biological interest and their richness in endemic species, these plant formations play an important ecological role, are of undeniable esthetical value, and are often composed of species containing precious medicinal substances.

A large proportion of New Caledonian mangrove is located within the study area. This habitat plays an important ecological role: erosion control, wildlife habitat providing food to numerous fish and local people.

2.3.3 Description of the main continental wildlife habitats Seven continental wildlife habitats were inventoried in the study area. These habitats were defined according to the various plant formations represented. The most important habitats, based on land area in the study area, are:

Mangrove on the shore of a river flowing into the lagoon

the maquis on ultrabasic rocks at low and mid-altitudes (143 km²); the savannah and the thicket (59 km²); the mangrove (27 km²).

9 Line formed by the lowest points of a valley.

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Except for the mangrove and the dry forest, these habitats are well represented in New Caledonia. Mangrove is inhabited by many nesting birds because it offers abundant food sources; it is also the preferred habitat of bats.

Terrestrial wildlife mostly frequents the evergreen forest at low- and mid-altitudes. This is in fact the preferred habitat for many species of birds (e.g. the cagou, the notou pigeon, and the New Caledonian lorikeet), reptiles (e.g. geckoes) and mammals (Pteropus and Miniopterus bat species). Traditional hunting zones are often located within this habitat. These hunting zones cover 7 km2 within the specific study area. The maquis is the preferred habitat for a few nesting bird and reptile species.

Moreover, the study area is characterized by six classes of freshwater habitats, established according to the current velocity and the substratum of the riverbeds. The most frequent aquatic habitats in the study area are the medium-flow water courses (with medium to gentle slopes), on gravelly to sandy substratum, and low-flow habitats (with gentle to inexistent slopes), on a gravelly to sandy substratum.

The habitat with the greatest number of fish species is the low-flow facies, with gentle to inexistent slopes on a gravelly to sandy substratum. Two species of freshwater fish with a special status seem to prefer this habitat: the broadhead sleeper (Eleotris melanosoma) and the bigmouth goby (Redigobius bikolanus). These species were captured in the Voh, Faténaoué, Koné, Pouembout and Témala rivers.

2.3.4 Freshwater benthos Benthic organisms10 are very important as they constitute the first link in the food chain, and represent a critical element in the diet of several freshwater fish species. Because of the sensitivity of some species to environmental modifications, benthic organisms represent good environmental bioindicators.

Our knowledge of New Caledonian aquatic invertebrates is still incomplete. Certain groups such as the Ephemeroptera (mayflies) are well known, while others such as the Diptera (flies) or Trichoptera (caddisflies) are still the subject of taxonomic research.

Benthic macrofauna in New Caledonian rivers is mostly composed of insects (Mary, 1999; Mary, 2001). Trichoptera, Diptera and Ephemeroptera are the most diversified and abundant groups. No detailed information is available on benthic fauna biomass in New Caledonian rivers. However, as in most South Pacific islands,

10 Benthic organisms are living plants and animals closely associated with the

bottom of watercourses, lakes, lagoons, etc.

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crustaceans and gastropods dominate populations in terms of biomass, while insects only constitute a small portion of the total biomass.

Of all the known aquatic insect species, more than 75% would be endemic to New Caledonia (Mary, 1999). More specifically, endemism is close to 100% for Ephemeroptera and Trichoptera, while it is approximately 40% for Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Heteroptera (cicadas and bugs) and Coleoptera (beetles). Molluscs and crustaceans have a much lower endemic rate than insects.

According to the IUCN (2000), three gastropod species (snails) and one coleoptera living in New Caledonia have a special status: Glyptophysa petiti, Heterocyclus perroquini, and Heterocyclus petiti, and Rhantus alutaceus, which are all classified as threatened.

The main factors governing the spatial distribution of benthic fauna are the stream flow rate, riverbed substratum, land use, and altitude (Mary, 1999). Several species occupy a small distribution area. Populations in river sections with running waters are denser and more diversified than populations in river sections with sedimentation and still waters. The specific population composition of these two types of environment is different. Diptera and Trichoptera make up the greater part of the populations in lotic environments while Diptera and Trichoptera, Oligochaeta (worms), Ephemeroptera and crustaceans make up the greater part of communities in lentic environments.

The density of the benthic fauna varies according to the seasons. The end of the dry season seems to be the time when high densities of benthic organisms are found, since they have had time to settle and develop (Mary, 2001).

Benthic communities are very sensitive to modifications in water quality and stream bed substrate. Human activities that result in the discharge of sediments, nutrients or organic matter into the rivers affect the survival and species composition of benthic communities. Deforestration, agriculture, bush fires and mining activities are all actions that contribute to modifying the habitat of benthic communities.

No information was found on heavy metal concentrations in the benthic organisms in New Caledonian rivers. However, as part of the Koniambo Project, the heavy metals in the flesh of two species of freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium aemulum and Macrobrachium caledonicum) were assessed, since these species are eaten by human populations. Chromium, copper and manganese concentrations higher than the most restrictive international standards have been observed on occasion, whereas the arsenic,

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mercury, nickel11, selenium and zinc concentrations were always below these standards.

2.3.5 Freshwater fish Despite its relatively small surface area, New Caledonia has an exceptionally rich fish fauna (Pöllabauer, 1999). A survey of New Caledonian rivers yielded 113 species of fresh and brackish water fish. Of these, fifteen (15) species are endemic to New Caledonia, and six (6) species have been introduced. According to the IUCN (2000), two species have a special status: Redigobius bikolanus and Eleotris melanosoma. Redigobius bikolanus is rare in New Caledonian streams, while the other species is commonly found.

The rivers of the study area were surveyed and yielded 25 species belonging to 11 families (Erbio, 2001), which is quite diversified. Anguilla marmorata is the only species found in all streams sampled. Anguilla reinhardtii, Oreochromis mossambicus, Sicyopterus sp., and Mugil cephalus were the other best represented species. Most of these species (A. marmorata, A. reinhardtii, K. rupestris and Oreochromis mossambicus) are eaten by local populations. The Témala and Faténaoué rivers had the largest number of species captured. These rivers are both located in watersheds that have almost no sign of urban, agricultural or mining development.

Very limited information is available on fish fauna in fresh and brackish waters, since very few scientists have examined this question. Only two families are considered as strictly freshwater families: Rhyacichthyids and Galaxiids (Marquet et al., 1997). These families were not captured in the study area. Most fish present in fresh waters live in river sections with running waters, on a rocky or muddy substratum. Feeding varies greatly from one species to another. Some species are piscivorous (fish-eating), while others feed exclusively on plankton and detritus, benthic organisms or epibenthic algae12.

The introduction of exotic species, habitat loss and destruction, and harvesting of resources are the main factors of fish mortality and population control. Various exotic species were introduced for several reasons, namely fishing, aquariophilia and mosquito eradication. Loss and destruction of the habitat are mainly generated by mining activities, logging and bush fires. Species most affected by fishing are those in the Anguillidae, Kuhlidae, Cichlidae and Mugilidae families.

As part of the Koniambo Project, the heavy metal and organic contaminant concentrations in fish flesh were assessed. Three

11 There is no standard for nickel, but concentrations were always below the

detection limit of the analytical method. 12 Epibenthic algae are small algae growing on benthic organisms.

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species of fish were selected as ecosystem health indicators (bioindicators): Anguilla marmorata, Anguilla reinhardtii and Awaous guamensis. Metal concentrations in the flesh of these three species were all below the most restrictive international standards, except for selenium in one sample of Anguilla reinhardtii and manganese in one sample of Awaous guamensis.

2.3.6 Amphibians and reptiles New Caledonia amphibians are represented by only one species, the green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) (Bauer et Sadlier, 2000). This species was intentionally introduced at the end of the nineteenth century. Litoria aurea is found in several habitats such as urban gardens, temperate and tropical grasslands and along coastal shores.

Compared with the other Pacific islands, the New Caledonia reptilian fauna is highly endemic, since over 85% of New Caledonian species are indigenous. Sixty-eight reptile species of the Gekkonidae family and three species of snakes from the Typhlopidae and Boidae families have been inventoried in New Caledonia. The only snake species present on Grande Terre is the braminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) (Bauer and Sadlier, 2000).

Source: http://www.frogs.au/frogs/aurea.html Litoria aurea, the only amphibian

living on Grande Terre

Five species of the Gekkonidae family are considered rare in New Caledonia, but only one species, the Bocourt's giant skink (Phoboscincus bocourti), has a special status according to IUCN (2000). The limited information on the reptile population and its biology makes it very difficult to design conservation strategies.

The most important reptilian habitat is the wet evergreen forest, followed by the maquis. Fourteen species, mainly found in the South Province, live in this habitat. Half of the reptilian fauna (51%) is not likely to be found in the study area, as their preferred habitats are not well represented in the plant formations of the study area, or because their distribution is limited to certain zones.

Reptiles are mainly threatened by habitat destruction. Bush fires associated with cultivation practices, deforestation and mining exert a significant pressure on their habitats. However, the low human population density and the slow growth of the natural resources industries lessen the risks for the land reptiles and amphibians of New Caledonia, in comparison with the other regions of the Pacific.

2.3.7 Terrestrial birds With 45 species endemic to New Caledonia, the terrestrial nesting bird fauna of Grande Terre is noted for its high endemicity. Twelve (12) species of birds are included in the IUCN Red list. Among these, the Cagou (Rhynochetos jubatus) is the bird emblem of New Caledonia. The richness and endemism of the avifauna contribute to

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the development of nature-oriented tourism such as bird watching tour packages.

The limited data collected on spatial distribution show that the forest is the most popular habitat (especially the wet evergreen forest), followed by the savanna (with mainly niaoulis). Nesting birds feed mostly on insects, fruits and seeds. Most species (44%) nest in trees, with nests often found at heights of 1 to 3 metres. Breeding periods occur mainly between September and January. Mortality factors are mainly anthropogenic (road kills, loss of habitat, hunting, capturing the birds for commercial purposes), even though introduced predators (cats and wild dogs) are recognized as a serious menace, especially for endemic or protected species.

The Cagou (Rhynochetos jubatus), bird emblem of New Caledonia

The migrating or erratic terrestrial bird fauna comprises 32 species belonging to eight orders, including the one with the most species, the Charadriiforms (an order), represented by three families.

Most migrating or erratic birds are found in wetlands and along the shoreline. Some (shorebirds) nest in the Siberian region, and fly south from August to February, after reproduction. Others (passeriforms, various aquatic birds) nest in Australia or New Zealand, and are erratic after reproduction.

The list of birds introduced and acclimatised comprises a total of 13 species belonging to four orders and seven families. Most species (69%) belong to the orders Galliforms and Passeriforms. These species are either some kind of game or cage birds released voluntarily or not. The only species with a special status is Anas aucklandica chlorotis (brown teal).

The vast majority of introduced birds mainly live in man-made environments, and do not seem to seriously compete with indigenous birds. The most abundant (and pervading) introduced species is without a doubt the most common bird in New Caledonia, the Moluccan robin, which was introduced very early on (in 1867) to control insect pests in agriculture.

Anas aucklandica chlorotis

2.3.8 Land mammals New Caledonia native land mammals are represented by two Chiroptera sub-orders, namely Megachiroptera ("roussettes" or fruit bats) and Microchiroptera (bats). Seven species of Megachiroptera (of which five are endemic) and five species of Microchiroptera (one species being endemic while another is extinct) have been inventoried. A few species of land mammals were introduced on Grande Terre, including rodents, the rusa deer and a wild pig. The rodents have been introduced accidentally, upon arrival of the first Europeans, while the rusa deer and the wild pig were introduced for hunting; they are hunted in the study area (SEFP, 2000).

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Most Chiroptera species present in New Caledonia are confined to the islands (The Swedish Biodiversity Centre, 1999). These species are mainly found in the South Pacific. According to the IUCN (2000), five species have a special status.

There is no information available on the distribution of Chiroptera on Grande Terre. However, based on the preferential habitat of these species, most of them could be found in the study area, with the exception of Pteropus ornatus auratus and Pteropus vetulus, which are endemic to the Loyalty Islands, and Nyctophilus howensis, which is extinct.

The information available on the biology of Chiroptera is limited. Mangrove and dense humid forests are habitats for the Megachiroptera. Microchiroptera are found in karstic caves, where there is considerable limestone erosion, and in forests at low and mid-altitudes. Megachiroptera are frugivorous, while Microchiroptera are insectivorous. The introduced species are herbivorous. Megachiroptera reproduction rate is low; females generally have one young per year, sometimes two.

The main threats for Chiroptera species are the loss of habitat and hunting. The Kanak13 hunt the "roussettes" during traditional celebrations. Megachiroptera hunting is also allowed from April to June, when these species cause the most damage to fruit harvests.

2.3.9 Protected species in the continental environment The 2000 Red List issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. According to IUCN definitions, a species is said to be rare, threatened or vulnerable when it presents a short or mid-term high extinction risk.

In New Caledonia, some species with a special status are under national protection. They comprise bird species with controlled hunting and capture as well as fruit-eating bats, which are protected under regulations.

According to this Red List, there are 26 terrestrial wildlife species with a special status in New Caledonia, including 12 bird species. Among these species, 17 are endemic to New Caledonia. The presence of these species within the study area cannot be confirmed, since no inventory of the bird fauna, reptiles or mammals has been performed to date. However, based on their preferential habitats, these species could possibly be found in the study area. Since the distribution of plant formations (i.e., habitats) is known, from the EBS, an efficient

13 A Kanak is a Melanesian born in New Caledonia. The orthography of the word

"Kanak" is considered by some as invariable.

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program can now be developed to inventory these protected species. The knowledge of the local people will also be utilized.

Fish and benthos surveys were carried out in rivers of the study area, allowing us to determine the presence of species with a special status. These surveys allowed the capture of two fish species with a special status (Redigobius bikolanus and Eleotris melanosoma), but none for the benthos species.

2.3.10 Protection of biodiversity: terrestrial environment New Caledonia is recognized by several international organisations for its endemic plant species. As noted earlier, New Caledonia flora is composed of about 4780 vascular plant species, 1400 of which were introduced or cultivated. More than 75% of the species are endemic. The chemical composition of ultramafic rocks and soils strongly influence the composition of plant species, and endemic species are often observed in association with these rocks/soils. As for the fauna, there is a large number of endemic birds.

The New Caledonian biodiversity is threatened mainly by anthropogenic activities (fire, mining, introduced species). There are 27 parks and land reserves in New Caledonia, located mainly in the South Province, covering about 3% of the total land area. The sclerophyllous forest (or dry forest) and the mangrove have been identified as the main plant formations to be preserved. Within a context of protecting biodiversity, measures are being implemented by New Caledonia and international organisms, such as, the World Wildlife Fund, to protect the dry forest. Local actions for the protection of the mangrove by groups such as the Association Racine and the local committee of IFRECOR (“Institut français de recherche sur les coraux”) have recently been initiated. Actual conservation practices in New Caledonia, and especially in the North Province, are however deemed by some scientists to be insufficient to ensure the protection of continental biodiversity and the long-term survival of ecosystems.


2.4.1 Oceanography Baseline information on the oceanography of the lagoon and offshore waters has been collected through a comprehensive literature review and field surveys. The field surveys carried out as part of the Koniambo Project began in 1999, and included the measurement of parameters required for the calibration and validation of a numerical hydrodynamic model of the lagoon. The baseline information collected will enable the comparison of the existing conditions with future environmental conditions resulting from the construction and

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operation of the Koniambo Project. The location of the data collection and monitoring stations (tide level recorders, current meters, sediment traps, CTD profiles, etc.) in the lagoon is shown on Map 3 (in sleeve). Up until the end of 2000, the lagoon investigations have focused in the Koné Lagoon, with only limited information collected from the Chasseloup Bay. Over 2001, it is anticipated that the focus will shift to the Chasseloup Bay, since the projected port facilities may be located in this sector.

The following information has been collected for the calibration and validation of the hydrodynamic model:

water level measurements at three locations within the lagoon; physico-chemical characteristics of lagoon waters, including

salinity and temperature profiles; current velocity transects at three locations within the lagoon.

Additional physical data were collected to characterize the lagoon:

bathymetry of the lagoon and channel entrances (passes) to the lagoon; seismic soundings to determine the thickness of the lagoon bed

sediments; sedimentation rates; stream-derived sediment input to the lagoon.

The bathymetry of the lagoon is shown on Map 3. With the exception of the sinuous Passe de Koné, with depths of up to 70 m, and the broader Passe de Pouembout, with depths of up to 60 m, the lagoon is relatively shallow (usually less than 5 m). Extensive areas of mangrove, and a complex network of river and tidal channels characterize the land/sea boundary of the lagoon.

The outer limit of the lagoon is the barrier reef. The central portion of the lagoon is dominated by a large intertidal reef flat, known as Plateau de Koniène. Between Plateau de Koniène and the outer barrier reef is an extensive zone of uncharted shallow water less than 5 m deep. The lagoon sediment bed is composed of unconsolidated mud.

The lagoon is often turbid. This is due to a persistent southeasterly, which contributes to resuspension of lagoon bed sediments into the water column. In addition, during flood events, large buoyant plumes of stream-derived suspended sediments extend from the river mouths, and spread over the lagoon. In some cases, these plumes extend beyond the barrier reef entrances, into the open ocean.

Water quality in the lagoon results from the mixing of oceanic waters entering the lagoon by the reef passes and freshwaters brought by streams flowing into the lagoon. The quality of lagoon waters is

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mainly influenced by the input of nutrients, sediments, metals and organic substances originating from the land. The characteristics of the freshwaters entering the lagoon are themselves conditioned by the geology and the land use of the drainage basin.

The surface water temperature of the lagoon in October 2000 was 26,8 ± 1,1°C (mean ± standard deviation; n=15). Because of the shallow waters in the lagoon and the strong winds, no stratification is observed. Tides are semi-diurnal and vary between 0,7 m (neap tides) and 1,6 m (spring tides) in amplitude. With the exception of the reef passes where currents can reach 60 cm/s (and even 100 cm/s), currents in the lagoon are relatively small and limited to velocities of less than 15 cm/s.

2.4.2 Description of the main marine wildlife habitats As part of the Koniambo Project, extensive field work was carried out in the specific study area to characterize the marine wildlife habitats and their biological communities. The field work was preceded by a comprehensive literature review. The objectives of the study were to:

identify and map the major marine wildlife habitats in the specific study area; provide baseline information on the spatial and temporal

variability in the composition and abundance of the biological communities within each habitat.

Habitat mapping was carried out by interpreting aerial photos and in situ validation (observations done by using SCUBA and snorkel) of the interpretation.

Included among the main habitats identified (and mapped) are:

coastal habitats;

mangrove and estuaries (including unconsolidated sediments, mangrove roots and salted marshes); rocky and sandy beaches.

lagoon habitats; unconsolidated seafloor: muddy sediments; grey sands; white sands.

coral reefs: fringing reefs; intermediate and patch reefs; outer barrier reefs.

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open-sea habitats. Coastal habitats provide feeding grounds for a variety of crustaceans, annelids, molluscs, fish, as well as to four species of marine turtles and the dugong (a marine mammal), which are included on the IUCN red list.

Lagoon habitats dominated by unconsolidated sediments provide a shelter for benthic organisms, which serve as food for many fish species. Coral reefs, the outer barrier reefs in particular, show the highest diversity of organisms amongst all of the habitats sampled. Coral reef habitats are also the most sensitive to land influences. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has been set up to protect coral reefs. Deep pelagic waters are fished on a commercial basis for their large pelagic fish species (tuna, swordfish, etc.). This is the habitat of large marine mammals and of marine birds that nest on the small islands off Grande Terre.

2.4.3 Marine ichthyofauna and benthos The marine studies were designed to sample each of the marine habitats, and characterize their biological communities in terms of composition and species abundance (density and biomass). Benthos and fish sampling stations are shown on Map 3.

A variety of methods were used to sample fish and benthos in each of the habitats. Fish sampling methods included underwater visual census and catches with longlines, gill nets, cast nets, and beach seines. For the sampling of benthos, the following methods were used: line intercept transects, hand corers, Shipek grab and quadrats.

Statistical comparisons of fish catches (numbers and biomass) by different sampling gear, habitat type and zone were made. Estimates of fish species diversity, density and biomass were also obtained from visual census data from the inner and outer reefs.

All fish caught in nets in the estuaries and frontal mangrove/seagrass areas were identified to species level. Length and weight were recorded for all specimens. Tissue samples of fish and invertebrates were collected from coastal habitats, in order to determine baseline concentrations of metals and other accumulated pollutants in tissues. For these fish bioindicators, sex, stage of maturity and gut contents were also recorded. The bioindicator species were selected on the basis of ease of collection, presence in various habitats/locations (ubiquity), representation of trophic level, and importance in the diet of the local populations. Species collected for initial analyses include:

Anodontostoma chacunda, a small herbivorous/detritivorous fish, resident and abundant;

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Pomadasys argenteus, an average size predator (carnivorous) fish, consumed by local people, quite abundant; Scylla serrata, a large mangrove crab, detritivorous/carnivorous,

abundant and commonly eaten by local populations; Crassostrea glomerata, a bivalve commonly found in the

estuaries. Commonly used as a bioindicator, and eaten by local populations.

Overall, 110 families (or groups) of benthic organisms were captured from the estuarine, mangrove and lagoon seafloor habitats of the specific study area (Table 6). None of the species identified is included in the IUCN list of rare or endangered species. Family composition was found to be significantly different in these three habitats. Only a small number of families were common to all three habitats. Furthermore, because of relatively small sample sizes and a high natural variability, these three habitats could not be statistically discriminated when comparing the characteristics of the benthic communities.

Table 6 Descriptive information about the benthic infauna of the estuaries, mangrove and lagoon seafloor habitats

Number of taxa Density (individuals per m2) Habitat

sampled Phylum Classes Most represented

class Range (min- max.) Mean

Standard deviation

(SD) 54

Estuaries 9 10 Polychaeta (23 families) Malacostraca (10 families)

0 - 16 328 2 153 3 137

72 Mangroves 8 8

Polychaeta (28 families) Malacostraca (20 families)

226 - 8 757 2 881 2 478

72 Lagoon seafloor

5 9 Polychaeta (33 families) Malacostraca (16 families)

25 - 10 000 1 719 2 712

Source: NSR (2001)

Coral communities are changing from the outer barrier reef to the inner barrier reef. In fact, the outer barrier reef community is more important and more diversified than the inner barrier reef community. The inner barrier reef is characterized by a high cover of sand and rubbles, whereas there is no sand cover on the outer reef. For the majority of the zones included in the specific study area (see Map 3), coral cover on the outer and inner reefs seems to be healthy, with small amounts of dead corals and of corals covered with algae.

Furthermore, the coral tissue thickness was evaluated from some Porites samples from the Koné Lagoon. The mean tissue thickness is 3,84 ± 0,71 mm (mean ± standard deviation), which indicates the

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coral is healthy. To date, there is no clear relationship between coral tissue thickness and sedimentation rates measured in the lagoon.

A total of 107 marine fish species were caught or observed in the specific study area. Of these, 65 were observed on barrier reefs and 45 were caught in the estuaries, mangroves and beaches (Table 7). None of these species is listed on the IUCN list of rare or endangered species. Moreover, no species observed on the coral reef was also caught in other habitats, but this might be a result of the different sampling techniques used in the survey.

Table 7 Descriptive information about the ichthyofauna of the estuaries, mangroves, lagoon seafloor habitats and barrier reefs

Habitat sampled

Number of


Number of


Most diverse families



Mean density

(fish/ m2)

Mean biomass (g/m2)

Estuaries 14 21 Clupeidae Leiognathidae

209 63 312 ---- ----

Mangroves 24 32 Clupeidae Leiognathidae

317 62 124 ---- ----

Lagoon seafloor

No results (longlines used for lagoon seafloor ichthyofauna were attacked by sharks)

Inner barrier reef

14 52 Lutjanidae Labridae ---- ---- 0,042

(± 0,007) 29 (±15)

Outer barrier reef

17 39 Acanthuridae Serranidae ---- ---- 0,019

(± 0,004) 22 (± 9)

Source: NSR (2001) * CPUE (catches per unit of effort, expressed as the number of catches per standard set of

four gill nets deployed for 16 hours) ** BPUE (biomass per unit of effort, expressed in grams of catches per standard set of four

gill nets deployed for 16 hours)

Laboratory analyses were conducted on the flesh14 of two benthic species and two fish species. The contaminants analyzed were those for which a standard has been set for the consumption of aquatic or marine organisms. These are metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Co, Pb, Mn, Hg, Ni, Se, Sb, Zn), pesticides (12 organochloride pesticides and 6 organophosporous pesticides), and oxyfluorfen (a herbicide).

The results revealed that the flesh of the oyster (Crassotrea glomerata) and of the two fish species (Pomadasys argenteus and Anodontostoma chacunda) presents contaminant concentrations below the most restrictive international standards. For the liver of Anodontostoma chacunda, concentrations measured exceeded the standards (which are intended only for tissues eaten by people, i.e., usually the flesh, but not the liver) for only four metals: copper, manganese, mercury and selenium. These results prove the importance of fish liver in the absorption and bioconcentration of

14 Liver samples of Anodontostoma chacunda were also analyzed.

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contaminants from the marine environment. For the crab (Scylla serrata), concentrations of total arsenic, copper, manganese and selenium were higher than the standards.

2.4.4 Marine reptiles The literature review on marine reptiles in New Caledonia yielded 4 species of turtles and 14 species of snakes.

All marine turtles in New Caledonia have a special status, according to IUCN (2000). Eretmochelys imbricata is severely threatened, while Dermochelys coriacea, Chelonia mydas and Caretta caretta are threatened. The marine turtles are also subject to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

Marine turtle habitats are mainly coastal habitats, coral reefs, bays and lagoons. Salt-marsh snakes are found in a near-shore coral reef and shallow water habitats.

Most turtles are omnivorous, but certain species have more specific diets. For example, Eretmochelys imbricata almost only eats sponges found on the unconsolidated deposits in the mangrove and lagoons, while the strictly herbivorous adult Chelonia mydas feeds on the grass beds. All of these habitats (grass beds, mangrove and lagoon habitats) are present in the study area. Sea snakes are non-specific piscivorous, but some species are more selective in their diets.

Source : Hannecart and Letocart (1983) Sterna nereis exsul, a

vulnerable species according to the IUCN

Turtle migration is mostly linked to reproduction. Turtles spend their whole life in the sea, and only move to the beaches to lay their eggs. This habitat represents a very small portion of the study area. Females always return to nest in the same location.

Hunting and commercial harvesting represent the main threats for marine reptiles. Coastal development also contributes to the loss of critical reproduction habitats. Source : Hannecart and Letocart (1980)

Tahiti Petrel (Pterodroma rostrata trouessarti)

Marine reptiles represent an inherent value; indeed several tribes have turtles and marine snakes in their totems. These totems vary from tribe to tribe. Turtles are also considered noble food during ceremonies.

2.4.5 Marine bird fauna The marine bird fauna of Grande Terre is represented by nesting, migratory and erratic species. A total of 26 breeding marine bird species has been inventoried to date. Most of these species are largely distributed over the Pacific. Four (4) sub-species are endemic to New Caledonia: Pterodroma rostrata trouessarti, Pterodroma leucoptera caledonica, Larus novaehollandiae forsteri and Sterna nereis exsul. This latter species is the only marine bird species of New Caledonia protected under the IUCN.

Source : Hannecart and Letocart (1980) Gould Petrel (Pterodroma

leucoptera caledonica)

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The information available on the spatial distribution and abundance of marine birds is partial and incomplete.

Fish, cuttlefish and squid are the main food sources, accounting for 61% of the marine species for which diet information is available.

None of the marine bird reproduction sites mentioned in the literature is found in the study area. Observations are mainly reported from islets located south of Grande Terre and offshore of the lagoon barrier reef.

The review of the literature provided information on the nesting periods for 19 of the 26 marine nesting bird species. These periods range from October to March, and, for 11 species, more specifically from December to January.

Mortality factors and population control are mostly due to nest disturbance and robbing by humans, and, to a lesser degree, predation by rats and cats. Boaters going ashore often disturb species nesting on islets.

2.4.6 Marine mammals Marine mammals inventoried in New Caledonia belong to two orders: Cetacea and Sirenia. Nine species of cetaceans, belonging to four families (Balaenopteridae, Kogiidae, Delphinidae and Physeteridae), have been inventoried. The dugong (Dugong dugon) is the only species from the Sirenia order present in New Caledonian waters.

According to the IUCN (2000), two species have a special status: the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and the dugong, both of which are considered vulnerable. Moreover, 8 out of 10 species inventoried are listed in Appendices I and II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

None of these species are endemic to New Caledonia, most of them being rather widely distributed from polar to tropical waters. No information is available on the distribution of these species in New Caledonia. Except for the minke whale that prefers polar and temperate waters, and which is rare in tropical waters (Banfield, 1977), the preferred habitats of these species are present within the study area.

Four species of Cetacea live in the pelagic environment, three species are found mainly in the coastal environment, and two species live in both the offshore and coastal environments. The dugong lives in the coastal environment and feeds on sea grass beds. Cetacean eat mostly squid and fish. Migrating species are found in tropical waters during the breeding period, which ranges from April to November. The other species are found in the New Caledonian waters all year round and do not seem to have a special breeding season. For most of the marine mammals, sexual maturity

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comes late, the reproduction output is low, and the energy investment for each of the youngs is high (long periods of gestation and lacatation).

Accidental capture in fishing nets is the main mortality factor for Cetacean populations. Habitat destruction is also a significant factor affecting Cetacean populations of the coastal environment. Hunting was once a significant mortality factor (they have long been hunted for their meat and oil), but Cetaceans are now protected worldwide (American Cetacean Society, 2000). The destruction of the dugong habitat is the most significant factor controlling the population of this species. As it is greatly dependent on its habitat, the dugong is very vulnerable. The dugong is prized by many cultures, and is now protected. There are however still some captures for traditional feasts (IFRECOR, 2000).

2.4.7 Protection of marine biodiversity The New Caledonian lagoon is one of the largest in the world, and it presents a rather rare double barrier reef. New Caledonia coral reefs are considered to be in good health when compared to other reefs in the Pacific (Wilkinson, 2000). However, the pressure exerted by human activities is increasing, and perturbations can be observed on a few reefs close to Nouméa or under the influence of watersheds with past or current mining activities. When compared to Papua-New-Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Micronesia, New Caledonian marine fauna shows an intermediate wealth and a high endemism rate.

Bleakley (1995), who assessed the marine protected areas in the South Pacific for the World Bank, considers that New Caledonia has an adequate number of marine protected areas. According to this author, the protection level of certain protected marine species in New Caledonia is high.

There are 17 protected marine areas in New Caledonia, all located in the South Province. These protected areas represent a surface area of about 37 500 ha, or about 2% of the lagoon. The lagoon in the study area is located in the north west region of New Caledonia, where the wealth of the ichthyological fauna has been shown to be more significant than in the eastern and northern lagoons of New Caledonia.

According to the North Province government and the local IFRECOR (“Institut français de recherche sur les coraux”) committee, two marine habitats, within the study area, deserve special protection: the coral reefs and the mangrove.

Due to its biodiversity, the barrier reef is the most important coral formation in the lagoon. High densities of organisms and a great

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variety of fish, corals and other benthic organisms, such as molluscs, are found there.

Mangroves play a significant ecological role as a feeding area for juvenile crustaceans and fish, for shoreline stabilization and the protection of coral reefs. Moreover, this habitat is greatly valued by the population for fishing.


2.5.1 Social-demographic and economic characteristics of the population POPULATION In the 1996 census, the total population of New Caledonia was 196 836, including more than 44% Kanak, natives of Melanesia. About 21% of the total population (41 413 people) were living in the North Province. The current total population of New Caledonia is estimated to be 210 000 (ITSEE, 1997).

Voh, Koné and Pouembout communes showed populations of 1942, 4088 and 1189, respectively, for a total of 7219 persons in the study area. The population of the three communes is divided among three villages (urban centres in each commune) and 19 tribes (hamlets of Kanak communities, organized according to customary practices).

In the study area, 47% of the population lives in tribes, and 53% in villages. This proportion differs from commune to commune. Pouembout has only two tribes, representive 19% of the tribal population found in the study area. In contrast, Voh has eight tribes, representing 60% of the tribal population, while Koné, which has a much more developed village core, includes nine tribes, representing 49% of its population. GROWTH AND DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE Between 1969 - which corresponds to the beginning of the "nickel boom" - and 1996, New Caledonia’s total population increased by 96%. The Territory’s population increased by 19,9%, from 164 173 in 1989 to 196 936 in 1996, an annual growth rate of 2,6 percent.

Unlike French Polynesia, a French overseas territory whose overall population growth rate has dropped to less than 2,0% recently, New Caledonia’s population continued to grow, reflecting a trend typical of developing Pacific economies. A significant portion of this gain is attributed to immigration. In fact, the population’s natural growth, excluding immigration, actually decreased by 2,0% in the early 1990s and by 1,7% by the mid-1990s.

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Provincial population growth rates varied little. In the North Province, the population increased by 19,9% during the same period (1989-1996), compared with 20,4% in the South Province.

In the study area, the population increased by only 58% between 1969 and 1996. It has known, on the other hand, a significant growth since 1989, following the designation of the commune of Koné as the chief town of the North Province. The number of inhabitants in the study area went from 5459 in 1989 to 7219 in 1996, an increase of 32%.

The population in the study area is relatively young, with 44% under 20 years of age (North Province, 45%; Territory 40%) and nearly 14% aged 60 or older (North Province 6,9%; Territory, 7,5%).

The ITSEE (Institut Territorial de la Statistique et des Études Économiques) made demographic projections for 2018: in the absence of migration, the population of New Caledonia should reach 271 100 inhabitants in 2018, a growth rate of 38% over 1996. The population of the North Province could increase to 60 600 inhabitants, representing a growth rate of 46%. By applying this same rate to the population in the study area in 1996, the study area population would, in the absence of any immigration, reach some 10 500. These projections should, however, be revised when considering the implementation of the Koniambo Project. Indeed, the study area would, economically speaking, become an extremely appealing zone. Koné industrial hub could easily see its population more than double, as a result of the newly created direct and indirect jobs. LABOUR FORCE, EMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT ITSEE data indicate that the working population represents only 26% of the total population in the study area, compared with a rate of 41% for the whole of New Caledonia. The unemployment rate in the study area is estimated to be a little more than 20%.

Regarding the pattern of wage employment by sector, the situation in the study area is quite similar to what is observed in the North Province:

the percentage of farmers and fishermen is relatively high: 11% in the study area and 15% in the North Province, compared with 4% for the Territory; the percentage of craftsmen, tradesmen and head managers is

lower than the average for the Territory: 8% for the study area, 7% for the North Province and 10% for the Territory, which reflects an economic sector where individual initiatives are less developed;

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the percentage of supervisors is close to the average for the Territory: 7% in the study area, 8% on the Territory, and only 5% in the North Province, with marked differences, though, within the study area. This situation is obviously explained by the presence of Koné as the administrative hub and major town in the North Province.

In 1999, the average number of job applicants, as recorded at the Agency for Employment (APE), was 8849 for the whole of New Caledonia, representing an unemployment rate of approximately 10%. Official data on unemployment, however, rarely reflect market reality, because workers who have given up and stopped looking for work are not reported. Official unemployment rates in New Caledonia are often understated, and this may also be the case in rural areas, where the actual rates of unemployment may be higher than the official figures. Thus, by applying an ITSEE/APE differential ratio derived from the 1996 and 1999 data, we can estimate the number of real unemployed people to be 17 000, giving an unemployment rate of 20% for the Territory. Considering that a substantial proportion of the population of the study area is not working, it can be assumed that the unemployment rate for Voh, Koné and Pouembout is still much higher than for New Caledonia as a whole. SCHOOL ENROLMENT AND LEVEL OF ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT The general structure of the Caledonian school system is based on the French model. Following the Matignon Agreement, in 1988, serious efforts were made to develop schooling in secondary education, by the construction of colleges, in particular in remote areas. A university was also created in 1987. Other structures offer some places in higher education; those are primarily dedicated to training specialized technicians (BTS, or "Brevet de Technicien Supérieur"), but it is still necessary to leave the Territory for more advanced studies (medicine, engineering, doctoral level programs, etc).

In the 1996 census, 17% of the territorial population held a Baccalaureat or higher diploma; this percentage falls to only 6% in the North Province. These data from the ITSEE are generally corroborated by data from the Agency for Employment (APE). In 1999, "the slightly educated ones" (local expression for people with a primary school certificate or no diploma at all) represented 52% of the job applicants throughout the Territory. In the North Province, the situation is even more serious, where, indeed, 65% of the applicants were “slightly educated”.

Currently available information suggests that the educational level of individuals, specifically in technical fields, is limited; the number of technically qualified individuals also seems limited. Given this situation, Falconbridge-SMSP could face problems filling positions

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with local people, especially when considering the Goro-Nickel Project (Inco).

The period from 1989 to 1999 was, however, marked by a definite increase in the number of diplomas issued, in particular in professional education. Thus, in 1999, 850 students obtained a Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) and 932 a Diploma in Professional Studies (BEP); whereas ten years ago, the numbers were only 661 and 384, respectively.

During that same period, a total of 1374 graduated, i.e., 513 in the general stream, 495 in the technological stream and 366 in the professional stream; from 1989 to 1999, the growth rate for the number of graduates was 126%. Finally, the Diploma of High-Level Technician (Bac diploma +2), a rare diploma in New Caledonia, was awarded to 90 students in 1999, compared with only 55 in 1989. So, the number of people obtaining a diploma is clearly on the rise.

Educational programs available in New Caledonia in the mining sector include both the Diploma of Higher Education in Sciences and Technology (DEUST) and technical training offered in Poro (commune of Houaïlou).

The “Applied Geosciences”, or Mine DEUST has been offered by the University of New Caledonia since 1989. This two-year program targets scientific and technological graduates. The number of places is limited to 15 students per graduating class. The Education Centre for Mining and Quarry Techniques in Poro, organizes training sessions every year for adults, which are partly financed by the territorial Department dealing with continuing education and mining companies. As of February 2002, a "Metallurgy" DEUST will be also offered by the University of New Caledonia. Designed jointly by, inter alia, Falconbridge NC and SMSP, the program will specialize in extractive metallurgy and metallurgical engineering. The program will focus on chemistry and physics, and technicians in metallurgy, process engineering and quality control, as well as process circuit operators will be trained. The number of places will probably be limited to 20 students per graduating class.

As for the educational services available in the study area, the courses offered at the public college in Koné and the private college in Voh go up to only third grade. Hence, in the study area, it is not possible to complete a long secondary cycle. On the other hand, it is possible to do a CAP (Certificate of Vocational Skills, or “Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle”) or a CAPD (Certificate of Vocational Development Skills) at the ALEP (Professional College) in Koné. The students who wish to pursue their education thus have to leave the study area to go to the colleges in the North Province (Poindimié and Touho for the public network, and Houaïlou for the Federation de l'Enseignement Libre Protestant), in Bourail in the South Province

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(private professional college run by the Direction de l'Enseignement Catholique), or in Nouméa.

2.5.2 Social organization and characteristics of the social environment SOCIAL ORGANIZATION New Caledonians, and more specifically the population in the study area, are far from being monolithic. The main population group, the Kanak, comes from Melanesia. Caledonians of European origin represent the second most important group, followed by people from Asia, Polynesia and other Pacific islands.

The study area encompasses two customary areas: Hoot ma Waap and Paici-Camuki. Within each of these areas, there are local language, social and cultural variations. THE SOCIAL PACT: A NEW APPROACH TO LABOUR RELATIONS In the fall of 2000, the government, employers and trade-union associations signed a Social Pact, a new approach to social dialogue. Until then, the social partners maintained relations managed by a labour code inherited from metropolitan France. The Pact covers seven points considered essential for maintaining an easy-going social climate and labour peace, namely:

redesigning relations between the social partners; enhancing living conditions for the most disadvantaged people by

raising the guaranteed minimum salary (SMG); creating jobs; protecting local employment; creating Unified Social Security; maintaining and improving the supplementary pension plan; preserving the vital interests of New Caledonia by establishing

minimum service in significant sectors (namely air and maritime services).

Certain sensitive topics (or issues that involve France) are covered in the appendices (trade union financing, funding for staff training, procedural reforms to shorten delays in judgements, service promoting labour relations, measures for solving employers / employees conflicts, etc).

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2.5.3 Land tenure The land tenure issue in New Caledonia is complex. Negotiations for the reclamation of Kanak lands have an almost continual impact on any development projects proposed in New Caledonia.

The current land tenure system is composed of:

private lands and domanial lands, under common rights; lands managed by the Agence de Développement Rural et

d'Aménagement foncier (ADRAF), under common rights; customary lands, including aboriginal reserves; lands of Groupement de Droit Particulier Local (GDPL), under

individual rights. Private properties and domanial lands in the study area, including lands belonging to New Caledonia and the local communities (communes and Province), represent 135 216 ha, or 72,5% of the study area. ADRAF lands and customary lands represent 5697 ha (3%) and 45 741 ha (24,5%), respectively.

Some zones in the study area are defined as aboriginal reserves. They include the Gatope and the Oundjo tribes, on the littoral, and the Tiéta tribe north of the Koniambo Massif. In the case of the latter, the reserve extends along the Voh River, as well as its two tributaries, Côgo and Kamédwa.

There are certain private and ADRAF sites, which are the subject of latent claims (i.e., where two groups are disputing the ownership of the site). Two of these sites are located to the south-west of the Koniambo; one at "Taa" (on the shore of Vavouto Bay), claimed by the Oundjo tribe, the other at "Pointe de la presqu'île de Foué" (Ardimanni property) (SEFP, 2000).

2.5.4 Economic activities and land use LAND USE PLANNING Land use planning principles applicable to the study area are specified in the Regional Land Use Plan prepared in 1988. This scheme is still in force, with the exception of the major connecting route between the West and East coasts. Whereas the scheme suggested establishing this connection between Bourail and Houaïlou, the North Province retained the Koné–Tiwaka route. The inauguration of this trans-island connecting road took place in November 2000.

The general development scheme for the North Province states that the Voh and Pouembout alluvial plains should constitute a green belt around the Koné-Pouembout hub, similar to the one around Nouméa.

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Planning for the development of the urban and administrative hub, i.e., the seat of government for the North Province (Provincial Assembly), is governed by the "Structure et phasage" document produced in 1992 for the main town in the North Province.

Urban planning for the communes included in the study area is contained in the Urban Development Plan (UDP).

Land use and occupancy in Pouembout and Voh is regulated by the Urban Development Plans (UDP); the Koné UDP is currently being validated at the provincial level.

Since these documents are not adapted to the new situation created by the Koniambo Project, it has been decided, under the aegis of an inter-commune trade union, to prepare a Land Use Plan, which will be used to amend the current UDP.

For customary lands, which are governed by customary rights, there are no specific regulations, since customary authorities have full power over these lands.

However, ADRAF provides administrative support within the framework of land allocation or exchange projects, as well as allotment projects. ADRAF thus recently obtained agreement from the North Province to intervene in town planning and habitat projects.

At the present time, the urban organization of the study area is for the most part in compliance with the development directions defined in the above planning documents. Thus, the following characteristics are found in the study area:

the three urban centres, Pouembout, Koné and Voh, are distributed, from south to north, along territorial road No.1 (RT1), which skirts the western coast of the North Province; Koné is the largest urban centre, and is located at the base of the

Koniambo Massif, to the southeast; Voh, which is the smallest urban zone, is in the northern part of

the study area, on the coast, between the Koniambo Massif and Mont Kathepaïk; Pouembout occupies the south-eastern part of the study area, in

the Pouembout valley, near the coast; the main town in the North Province (Koné) is located halfway

between Pouembout and Voh. ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES

Agriculture In the North Province, agriculture is currently the major activity for almost two thirds of the population; there are traditional agricultural activities (60% of the rural population) as well as commercial

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agricultural activities (40% of the rural population). There are mainly three types of agricultural operations:

operations devoted to extensive or semi-extensive cattle-breeding, generally on land areas larger than 50 ha; small rural operations, specialized in field crops (corn, wheat,

sorghum), often associated with breeding, with land areas generally smaller than 50 ha; small operations specialized in market gardening (water melons,

tomatoes, potatoes, etc.) or fruit production (oranges, lemons, mangoes, etc), generally on a surface areas smaller than 20 ha.

The general agricultural sector in the study area is summarized as follows:

large corn-producing area in Voh; cattle-breeding occurs in all the communes, with marked

prevalence, however, in the alluvial plain of Pouembout; large market-gardening production around Pouembout; cattle-breeding on Pinjen Peninsula.

Aquaculture The study area includes two aquafarms:

the Blue Lagoon Farm, a private commercial operation, located in Foué (commune of Koné), operates 85 ha of maturation basins, and a hatchery on the coast; SEGATOP, located in the Gatope Peninsula (Voh commune),

operates 45 ha of basins, and is managed by an economic development group (GIE SEGATOP).

Various aquacultural projects are currently under study, including the extension of the existing Blue Lagoon Farm and SEGATOP, and the creation of two new farms (in the Chasseloup Bay and at the mouth of the plain of Pouembout). The North Province Sea Service is investigating the feasibility of setting up a shrimp packaging and central processing unit near Koné.

Phytoculture trials are currently under way on Koniène Plateau. The trials indicate the long-term benefits (i.e., about 15 years from now) from algea culture.

Forestry There are no commercial logging activities on the Koniambo Massif. The woodlands operations run by the communes in the study area are as follows (TOUTAIN, 1998):

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Voh: no forest operations; afforestation is planned, in particular, in the high valley of Tiéta, on the Côgo River, where a site is being considered for afforestation in 2005; Koné: a sawmill is operated by the Netchaot tribe; the Tango

plateau is logged, in particular for its Caribbean pine, and logging in this area is planned until 2025; the Tango plateau and Netchaot forest are targeted for afforestation programs, in 2005; Pouembout: the Forêt Plate, a 114-hectare area consisting of

85% Caribbean pines and 15% local species, has been logged since 1995; this area is located near an afforestation zone.

Commercial and self-subsistence fisheries Two types of fisheries are found in the study area: commercial fisheries (about ten professional fishermen in the study area) and self-subsistence fisheries. The Oundjo tribe has a large group of fishermen. In the Koné area, a Foué fisherman plays a significant role, since he supplies small businesses in the area, through the Koné municipal market.

Fishing activities are concentrated along the coast, with peak activities in areas opposite the Pouembout, Koné and Voh villages, and in coastal and littoral areas located on both sides of the Oundjo, Gatope and Témala tribes. The estuary of the Témala offers plenty of marine resources, used not only by the Voh area populations, but also by those from the Koné area. The mangrove located South and North of the Oundjo tribe represents the main source of self-subsistence marine products for this tribe, and is considered a "customary food" reserve.

Tourism The region is not perceived as a tourist centre, but rather as a transit region. However, the study area does have several tourist attractions, especially historical and cultural heritage sites. The tourist circuits are mainly in the Koniambo Massif area. The Confiance, Pandanus and Coco Creek hiking trails are appreciated by both tourists and locals alike; these trails are currently being enhanced. Other activities also include

riding horses and all-terrain vehicles around the massif; parasailing at Kathépaïk Mount above Voh village; and beach activities at the Presqu'île de Pindaï, the Franco Beach,

and Îlots Koniène. The study area comprises three classified hotels (Monitel, Koniambo and Bougainville), and four reception facilities for private individuals or for lodging (the Tamaon lodge, the Atéou tribal lodge, the Chevalier’s Ranch in Voh and the Boutana’s Ranch in Pouembout).

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Community services and equipment Drinking water for the Voh, Koné and Pouembout communes is supplied through groundwater wells or tapping springs. Information collected so far shows that the water supply network has sufficient capacity to meet a 50% increase in population.

On private lands, a few catchment ponds are used to create water reserves for cattle, and to irrigate crops. These ponds are mainly built at the base of channel springs; they are often two to three metres deep.

With regard to water treatment, only the village of Pouembout and the Paiamboué site (Hotel in North Province) have a wastewater collection network and treatment facilities. Pouembout’s wastewater treatment system needs to be completely rehabilitated, whereas Paiamboué’s system is in good condition.

2.5.5 Cultural resources The Koniambo Project takes place in an environment already rich in cultural resources. The first archaeological site (WK0013) was found within the restricted area, on the Foué peninsula (Koné commune), indicating the presence of a Lapita cultural complex in New Caledonia 3100 years ago. It is a classified site (i.e., a site that is protected by decree). It is important to note here that the classification of these heritage sites is focussed on protecting these sites, although to date, very few concrete measures have been undertaken in this regard.

The study area includes three other sites classified for their archaeological interest (mummies in Netchaot cave, mummies at Faténaoué, and petroglyph sites in the vicinity of Netchaot tribe). Two other resources are classified for their historical and architectural interest: the “Pigeonnier“ and Grimigni Castle, in Pouembout.

The study of archaeological potential led to the identification of three significant zones that should be the subject of further investigations: the Pinjen Peninsula and Témala and Pouembout valleys.

Discussions with various stakeholders in the study area also permitted the identification of several sacred and taboo sites. Further studies at the project site are needed to determine whether there are any other sites of cultural interest, and to identify protection measures for such sites.

2.5.6 Scenic landscape Interviews with civil servants from the North Province, surveys of the population of the study area and discussions with the customary authorities helped us identify landscapes with significant functional or aesthetic value. The more significant landscapes are: the Koniambo

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Massif, the peninsulas (Pinjen, Pindaï, Gatope, Foué), the lagoon and the Côgo, Kamédwa and Confiance valleys.

2.5.7 Valued environmental components and concerns Many interviews with public and local representatives have been carried out within the scope of the ongoing studies. The main concerns expressed by these stakeholders were related to the negative impacts of mining. Concerns pertain to impacts of past and current mining operations, namely channel flow depletion and gravel filling, loss of land with agricultural value, wasted landscapes, degradation of the tree cover, irreversible loss of endemic species, and degradation of air and water quality.

The interviewees also identified indirect impacts of mining, such as the risk of an over-exploitation of fishing and hunting areas, excessive plant harvesting, more or less controlled urbanization, and exacerbation of land claims and related conflicts.

Other potential consequences of these indirect impacts may also arise, such as,

the decline in traditional economic activities (hunting, fishing, agriculture); the loss of identity values (sacred sites, landscape, valley); and the dismantling of the Kanak’s traditional social structure, which is

based on mutual assistance and solidarity, in favour of the development of individualistic behaviours.

These potential impacts were corroborated by the local population. Mining pollution was clearly identified as being a major concern by the population. The interviewees from the Kanak tribes believe that mining leads to the degradation of the environment and, especially, the degradation of natural resources. Interviewees from the villages, for their part refer more to the potential degradation of their way of life.The main concern expressed by the local population with regard to the Koniambo Project was water pollution. Nevertheless, in contrast with this, were the expectations of the village and tribal populations regarding employment. For these communities, the project, which is positively perceived and mobilising, must represent interesting prospects for economic development, an opportunity to improve services and equipment, and a window on the world.

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3.1 ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES 3.1 Environmental issues 3.1.1 General 3.1.2 Issues related to

physical and biological aspects of the environment

3.1.3 Issues related to human aspects of the environment

3.2 Future activities and recommendations

3.2.1 Future activities related to the environmental management of the project

3.2.2 Recommendations related to international conventions

3.2.3 Conclusion

3.1.1 General The review of project-related environmental components led to the identification of several environmental issues, related to the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as socio-economic issues.

Some issues will have to be dealt with carefully in order to facilitate the integration of the project in the region, and ensure its acceptability (by people living in the study area, in the North Province, and in New Caledonia, as well as by the relevant authorities, and environmental groups). More specifically, these issues are land tenure, job creation for local people, optimization of economic spin-offs15, control of erosion, protection of water quality, and the protection of natural resources and habitats, as well as biodiversity.

The loss of natural habitats and biodiversity is an issue that extends beyond the boundary of New Caledonia and that may affect many other environmental components, including human aspects. The development of mining roads, deforestation, stripping activities, and the exploitation of the Koniambo Massif may also have important environmental consequences in this sensitive erosion-prone environment where many endemic plant species are found. The degradation of surface water quality caused by soil erosion could have adverse effects on the water uses, the mangrove, the relatively clear waters of the lagoon, and the coral reefs. Also, wastewater

15 Optimization of economic spin-offs may be possible by integrating

New Caledonian workers and companies into the project as much as practicable.

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effluents must be treated adequately prior to disposal, in order to minimize potential negative impacts on the receiving environment.

It is important to note that, notwithstanding the importance of an issue or an impact, the negative consequences of the project should, whenever possible, always be attenuated by using environmentally sound technologies, designs and methods.

The economic benefits for the region and the population must not be offset by the destruction of the sensitive environment in which the project takes place. New Caledonians are active users of natural resources, and are becoming more aware of the sensitive balance between development and the protection of these natural resources.

Taking into account the socio-political context of the region, with regard to land ownership and traditions, it will be essential to consider these human aspects with extreme care, and to inform and involve the population in every phase of the project.

3.1.2 Issues related to physical and biological aspects of the environment

The main environmental issues related to physical and biological aspects are:

loss of habitats (forests, mangrove, streams, coral reefs, etc.) and modification to the existing landscape caused by activities such as deforestation, stripping, construction of port infrastructure, exploitation of borrow pits and open pits, mining road development, etc.; conservation issues and loss of biodiversity, including impacts on

terrestrial (plants and animals) and aquatic (benthos and fish) ecosystems; quality of surface waters and sediment (runoff from access roads,

borrow pits, and mine sites); soil erosion and conservation in a steep environment with a soil

limited in organic matter; progressive mine site rehabilitation and revegetation on a

substrate where plant development is impeded by the particular chemical characteristics of the soil (high concentrations in Cr, Ni and Mg, and limited organic matter), and the steep slopes. As part of the rehabilitation measures, top soil removed during cleaning and stripping activities will be kept for future use; open sea disposal of dredged material, and discharge of cooling

waters; dust, metal (Ni, Cr, Mg, Hg, Co, etc.) and gas (SO2, NOx, etc.)

emissions to the atmosphere (from road traffic, ore extraction and

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handling sites, pyrometallurgical plant, power plant, ash management); soil and groundwater contamination (from fuel and coal

storage/distribution facilities, wastewater effluents), and, along the coast, intrusion of seawater into groundwaters due to excessive consumption; modification of river water flows and runoff patterns (construction

of ditches, runoff retention dikes, dams, sedimentation basins, etc.); modification of the hydrodynamic conditions in the lagoon (mainly

by the construction of port facilities, including a causeway and possible backfilling); effects on the use of terrestrial, aquatic and marine natural

resources; noise (drilling, extraction, traffic).

3.1.3 Issues related to human aspects of the environment The main environmental issues related to human aspects entail:

cultural and socio-economic impacts on local people; land ownership (and land alienation); manpower and social working habits; effects on recreational sites; encroachment of archaeological sites / burial sites; protection of drinking water quality; protection of natural resources in order to maintain the

population’s satisfaction as regard to hunting and fishing activities.

The project will also make a positive contribution to the development of the region by improving local socio-economic conditions and existing infrastructure. This includes:

contribution to the local economy (employment, training, procurement of material, equipment and services); development of or improvement in provincial infrastructure and

facilities (e.g. roads, ports and airports, as well as wastewater treatment, water supply, and electrical facilities). QUALITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT Among the main environmental concerns identified by interviewees living in the study area are water quality and the availability of sufficient water to meet local needs. As well, the impact on self-

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subsistence fishing and the degradation of the mangrove and the lagoon are particular causes for concern.

Several local representatives specifically mentioned the need to explore and mine the Koniambo Massif in a manner that would respect the environment. ECONOMY AND EMPLOYMENT The Koniambo Project has been anticipated by the local population for many years, and is perceived as a unique opportunity to rectify the inter-provincial economic and social imbalance that affects the Territory. This re-balancing of the North and the South provinces is one of the objectives pursued by the Matignon (1988) and the Nouméa (1998) agreements.

One of the most important issues raised by the project is the sharing of benefits and jobs between the Kanak community, the other Caledonian communities, and the expatriates. Integrating young people into the project is also a part of this issue. In addition, local people also expect some positive indirect benefits from the impact of infrastructure development on economic activities, such as, agriculture, fishing, and public services. In fact, people expect the project to be a catalyst for the development and strengthening of other economic activities. MANPOWER Although expectations are relatively high among the local population, the shortage of skilled personnel on the Territory, will likely be a major problem for fulfilling the technical needs of the Koniambo Project.

It is therefore a key issue, for the Koniambo Project, to invest in the training of the active population, and to take into account the fact that the simultaneous implementation of the Goro Project, may lead to competition and a shortage of human resources. POPULATION GROWTH AND PRESSURE ON COMMUNITY SERVICES AND EQUIPMENT

The Koniambo Project raised many concerns with regard to the capacity of the environment to support such a large development. Local representatives agree that the project will significantly increase the populations of the Voh, Koné and Pouembout communes, owing to migration from the South Province or intra-provincial movements. Some people are even expecting that the population in the region will double if the project goes ahead.

This is an important issue to consider, since the Koniambo Project will necessarily have a significant impact on the need for services, equipment and infrastructure of all types. The existing infrastructure

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and services cannot meet the additional needs triggered by an increase in the population and provide adequate services, such as housing, education and health services.

The project will, however, generate additional indirect benefits for the local and provincial administrations. For example, the Urban Development Plans (UDP) for Koné, Voh and Pouembout are outdated since they are based on a normal rate of population growth and economic development. In this case, and for many other issues, the proponents are expected to become directly involved in assisting local authorities with respect to the potential problems arising from development.

Several managers and elected representatives expect the proponents to collaborate in anticipating and channelling the development. They also expect the proponents to assist the local population and authorities with not only the search for solutions to problems generated by the project, but also the implementation of these solutions. Falconbridge NC and SMSP are already involved in this matter. LAND USE CONFLICTS Local representatives are anticipating potential conflicts with some local economic activities, owing to plant operations (e.g. discharge of effluents into the environment), or simply, to the large land areas devoted to mining operations and facilities. They are especially concerned by the fact that part of the surface areas devoted to agriculture may be allocated to mining or other uses, such as housing. It seems that some agricultural lands (namely in the Pouembout drainage basin) are currently being subdivided to build housing for the population; such actions are interpreted as speculative actions directly related to the project. Housing schemes have to be carefully planned to make sure that the development does not lead to the loss of good quality agricultural lands. SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT Anything that can, in one way or the other, affect the social environment is of great concern, and sustaining the social environment in this region is an issue for the project.

The instability factors that were a concern for the interviewees are:

loss of traditional values and customs; jealousy between tribes and social groups, according to the

distribution of jobs and economic benefits; social discrepancies generated by the wealth of certain

individuals, and development of resulting individualistic behaviours;

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differences between individuals, or groups of individuals accentuated.

Possible side effects have also been mentioned during interviews. These effects are related to the massive arrival of foreign workers in the area, non-familiar with the North Province and Melanesian customs and culture. This may affect social cohesiveness, and the security of the population, and may also influence alcohol and drug consumption. HUMAN HERITAGE AND CULTURAL RESOURCES Any loss of heritage or traditional value is of strategic importance, due to the pervasive presence of customs and religion in the everyday lives of the Kanak population.

Human heritage should be understood as being everything that makes the Melanesian society and local communities unique. This includes the traditional rules of the Kanak population (determining social and community relationships), the symbolic landscape components (mythological, spiritual, etc.), and archaeological resources.


3.2.1 Future activities related to the environmental management of the project OVERVIEW OF THE UPCOMING ACTIVITIES As stated earlier, the environmental management of a mining project comprises many stages or studies, progressing in parallel with different technical and economic studies of the project.

These activities include (Figure 5):

the Environmental Baseline Study (EBS), and its complementary studies; the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); the communications program, and public consultations; the environmental surveillance of construction activities; the environmental surveillance of project components, including

atmospheric emissions, effluents, etc.; the environmental monitoring of the receiving environment during

commercial production; progressive mining site rehabilitation and revegetation; post-closure environmental monitoring.

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The EBS should be considered a project-planning tool, since it will help integrate environmental and social issues into the decision-making process. The EBS will enhance our understanding of the environment (physico-chemical, biological and human components). This study is the result of comprehensive literature reviews and extensive fieldwork. Additional surveys will be carried out over the next two years, in order to complete our knowledge of the environment, and to take into account temporal variability. This work will be conducted in parallel with the feasibility study and the assessment of the environmental impacts of the project. ENVIRONMENTAL SURVEILLANCE DURING THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE

The construction phase of a major mining project such as Koniambo is usually intense, but of a fixed duration. The environmental issues to consider during the construction and operation phases of the project are also related to biophysical and human aspects and should take into account the arrival of large numbers of workers in the North Province.

Activities such as the construction of mining roads, including bridges, culverts, linear infrastructure such as conveyors and pipelines (for oil, gas, tailings, etc.) as well as of port facilities and the plant itself may lead to some important modifications of the terrestrial and aquatic environments. Consequently, these activities must be planned and organized in order to ensure a harmonious and sustainable integration of the project into the existing environment, without creating any major detrimental effects. For example, soil erosion results in the accumulation of material in depositional areas, with attendant effects such as clogging of water intakes, destruction of aquatic habitats and increased dredging needs. An adequate planning of construction activities will limit the need to implement expensive remedial actions.

Ontario Guidelines for evaluating construction activities impacting on water resources (OME, 1995), provide interesting recommendations related to soil erosion control measures, waterfront development, marine construction and dredging, bridge and road construction, open-pit mining, and landfill constructions. The following general environmental measures will be adopted during the construction phase:

consider the proposed developments in a regional and watershed context; avoid areas of significant ecological value or sensitivity, in

particular, areas supporting peculiar plant associations or threatened species, mangrove habitats, fish spawning and nursery grounds, stream headwaters, and major areas of groundwater recharge;

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minimize the need for cutting trees; within an area, confine development and construction to the least

sensitive areas. Hence, avoid steep slopes, areas of dense vegetation, porous soils, shorelines, natural drainage network, and soils susceptible to erosion; preserve natural landscapes and drainage systems as much as

possible; consider reusing fill materials wherever possible. The design

should incorporate the principles of reducing and reusing, so as to reduce or eliminate material intended for disposal outside the development area; near streams, avoid or minimize erosion problems, contamination

of the aquatic environment by hydrocarbons, and use of machinery; regularly inspect and maintain erosion and sediment control

devices (sedimentation dams and basins, cofferdams, etc.); consider possible alternatives to reduce the problems leading up

to erosion and sedimentation; proceed with a progressive revegetation of working areas that

have been stripped during the construction phase, as well as the embankments of mining roads and the sides of the conveyor lines; adopt good environmental practices with regards to the

management of solid and hazardous wastes.

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Figure 5 Development of a mining project and relationships with environmental aspects and studies







prevention / mitigationof possible impacts

IMPLEMENTATION PHASEChanges increasingly

difficult / costly













A P P R O V A L *





* by the board of Directors and public authorit iesDETAILEDDESIGN













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3.2.2 Recommendations related to international conventions For the Koniambo Project, the environmental recommendations related to the Convention on Biological Diversity are:

since New Caledonia (and the study area) has a very specific flora, is surrounded by a coral-rich lagoon, and presents a littoral fringe of mangrove, the protection of the biodiversity becomes one of the first environmental priorities of the project. Hence, conservation of biodiversity and protection of sensitive habitats or species must be seriously considered; develop strategies for the protection of biodiversity and ensure

the sustainable use of living resources when planning and executing the exploration, construction, exploitation, restoration and post-closure activities; develop a research program with the objective of devising

methods16 to ensure the survival of threatened species and promote their reproduction and development; review the strategies adopted worldwide to protect biodiversity; in addition to the protection of biodiversity, the Environmental

Impact Assessment of the project will need to take into account traditional ecological knowledge; currently, the international scientific community is paying special

attention to the potentially severe coral bleaching (loss of biodiversity and associated socio-economic impacts), which may be a consequence of global warming. Corals are quite sensitive to water temperature. International institutions consequently developed specific guidelines for the discharge of cooling waters into the marine environment. This will likely be subject to very stringent criteria related to water temperature changes. This aspect constitutes one of the environmental issues of the project, and the management and disposal of cooling waters will require adequate planning during the design phase.

With regard to the Ramsar Convention, the recommendations are:

the mangrove should be protected, since this habitat provides food and protection to numerous species of fish and

16 Methods such as:

• soil amendment for better success during the seedling, growing and maturing phases of the plant life cycle;

• transplantation of orchids and other bulbous plants; • use of insects or any other living organism to promote a better species

fitness; • laboratory experiments and greenhouse cultures with the objective of

replenishing the existing natural habitats; • testing of methods for the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded


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invertebrates, serves as spawning and nursery grounds for the fish community, and because the local population exploits the natural resources living in the mangrove; port and road developments, dredging, as well as any human

activities that may cause erosion, should take into account the protection of the coral reefs as well as of the mangrove and other important wetland habitats.

The recommendations from United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS) may impose restrictions on the Koniambo Project activities leading to ocean disposal, and in particular on:

any activities outside the territorial sea, whether on the continental shelf or within the Exclusive Economic Zone; any activities within the territorial sea that may pollute the marine

environment; any disposal activities within the territorial sea, including those

from a fixed man-made structure; the release of toxic, harmful or noxious substances (especially

those that are persistent) from land-based sources, from or through the atmosphere or by dumping17; pollution from other installations and devices operating in the

marine environment, in particular, measures for preventing accidents and dealing with emergencies, ensuring the safety or operations at sea, and regulating the design, construction, equipment, operation and manning of such installations or devices.

According to the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention, the marine environment must be protected and preserved from all sources of pollution, and effective measures must be taken, while considering the existing scientific, technical and economic capabilities, to prevent, reduce and, where practicable, eliminate pollution caused by dumping at sea of wastes or other matter.

From the Noumea Convention, appropriate measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems as well as depleted, threatened or endangered flora and fauna and their habitat must be taken. Appropriate measures to limit the pollution of the environment from ship and land-based activities, whether through marine discharge, modification of erosion patterns or atmospheric emissions, should also be taken.

17 "Dumping" is defined as any deliberate disposal of wastes or other matter from

vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea. According to the Convention, dumping within the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone or onto the continental shelf shall not be carried out without the express prior approval of the coastal State […].

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3.2.3 Conclusion In conclusion, the philosophy and measures applied so far by Falconbridge NC SAS and SMSP, to ensure sound environmental management of the Koniambo Project and the implementation of the sustainable development principles, will continue. This includes:

the adoption and implementation of the Falconbridge and SMSP Sustainable Development Policy; the adoption of and compliance with international conventions

and environmental standards and criteria; the construction of facilities equipped with best practicable

environmental technologies; the planning and realization of mining activities, while taking into

consideration environmental aspects. This is done for all phases of the project, including exploration, technical design, construction, commercial operations, as well as restoration, revegetation and post-closure environmental monitoring; the harmonious integration of the project into the natural and

human environment, in order to minimize the environmental consequences of the project, reduce the environmental risks related to extreme climatic events (cyclones, tropical rains and strong winds), and make the project acceptable to local populations; the integration and participation of local populations in the project


developing a solid partnership with local populations, and generating important economic spin-offs; having New Caledonian specialists (scientists and consultants) work in close cooperation with international consultants; implementing a communications program; conducting public consultations; implementing education and training programs for the workers; providing local people with work experience through their involvement in the project: through contact with international consultants; from job creation; by generating important local economic spin-offs.

the participation in the urban development planning process, conducted jointly by the three communes (Voh, Koné and Pouembout), to deal with the development pressure exerted on the existing infrastructure (housing, roads, electricity, schools,

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hospitals, etc.). Close communication with local communities and authorities will facilitate the integration of the project; a respect for traditional cultures and customs; the protection of cultural heritage and archaeological resources; a complete and rigorous environmental assessment procedure,

which respects World Bank and Canadian procedures, and includes public consultations conducted in collaboration with the territorial, provincial, communal and tribal authorities; the use of methods accepted and largely used by the scientific

community and government environmental managers to ensure:

the reliability of results from the fieldwork studies and the environmental assessment of the project, and the comparison of the results with existing scientific studies conducted in similar environments;

the development and use of bioindicators as an important tool to monitor the quality of the environment; the adoption of specific measures, such as the designation of

restricted areas, for the protection of the environment, ecosystems and plant biodiversity; field and laboratory trials and experiments to optimize

revegetation methods; an effective, durable and progressive restoration and

revegetation program in the mining areas.

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