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p. 10-11

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1In 1999, under the terms of the Nouméa and Bercy (1998), and Matignon-Oudinot (1988) Accords, the Ministers for Research and Overseas France asked IRD to assess the conditions for the creation of a centre for research on nickel prospection and mining in New Caledonia, and also to evaluate the environmental and societal impacts of these mining activities.

2Following this feasibility study, the ministers approved the report and then asked IRD to conduct a comprehensive study to prepare for the creation of this centre. At the same time, a multidisciplinary geoscience research team was assigned to New Caledonia. As well as working on the different reports (scientific, status, and budget) in conjunction with all the public and private stakeholders, the idea was also to develop this future induction research unit on the basis of research projects jointly developed with the local or external stakeholders involved.

3From the outset, it was therefore decided to adopt a holistic ecosystem-based approach (from prospection through to the restoration of degraded environments) that would be multidisciplinary, multi-institutional and include public-private partnerships.

4The research developed would lay the foundations for numerous findings in geophysics, geomorphology, geochemistry and hydrology with a specific and detailed focus on nickeliferous regolith and its functioning, in nickel ore mineralogy, in plant biology for the restoration of land impacted by mining, and in health following the discoveries concerning asbestos in ultrabasic nickel-bearing rocks.

5This “catalytic” effect of the research carried out soon led to the formation of consortia that won numerous calls for tenders, established an essential climate of trust between public and private partners based on the specific competencies of each operator, and triggered the exponential development of local expertise, while establishing New Caledonia as an attractive destination for this field of research. The research conducted thus produced key knowledge for mining activity and land revegetation, and concerning impacts on the lagoon.

6The New Caledonian research community has a multitude of components, including the government, the North and South Provinces, the participation of Kanak tribes on the islands, mining operators, service companies, and NGOs. Together with researchers, these associations, through their interest in research outcomes, have been key “transmitters” of knowledge to society.

7This transmission has led to the emergence of impacts generated by the numerous and diversified research and development activities (environmental, economic, academic, institutional, etc.). These numerous positive impacts include: the creation of the “Nickel and its Environment” National Technological Research Centre, founded at the request of government ministries and inaugurated in 2008; the creation of an environmental observatory in 2009; innovative non-destructive exploration techniques, and modifications to the metallurgical reprocessing technique following research on effluent discharges into lagoons; revegetation guides and the regulatory requirement for mining companies to determine a reference state of soils and ecosystems before any new land clearing operation. Another positive impact has been the creation of start-ups and jobs.

8Research projects have therefore covered a wide range of scientific fields over time, including human and social sciences, particularly anthropology and economics, thus branching out from scientific issues into other fields. The development of a highly interwoven, multi-partner discussion process has guaranteed the production of innovative research serving the needs of society.

9The results thus acquired, and the partnership development methodologies developed are transferable, shareable and adaptable to all countries in the Global South. Jointly devised with partners, the research can both contribute to increasing knowledge of the field and to reinforcing each country’s scientific and technological sovereignty.

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