New Caledonia Nickel Mine 50 years later
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Panoramic photo by Richard Chesher PRO EXPERT MAESTRO Taken 00:37, 15/12/2009 - Views loading...

New Caledonia Nickel Mine 50 years later

The World > Pacific Ocean Islands > Melanesia > New Caledonia

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In the 1950's the western shores of the Baie du Prony in New Caledonia was strip mined for nickel and iron. The last ore ship sailed out in September of 1968 and the land was left to regenerate. As you can see by looking at the other sphere images we have taken near this location, wilderness has returned to much of the land near the mines over the past 42 years, but the areas that were actively mined remain as you see in this image - very much like a Martian landscape. Back in 1984 I wrote about this recovery as "a fold in time" when people briefly left the area alone. The fold is now closing and there is a new, truly enormous strip mining operation and nickel processing plant closing the fold in time on the Baie de Prony. We call it Mordor and it has already launched an attack on Middle Earth. The area around the anchorage in the northern part of Baie du Prony, including the watersheds of the 5 small rivers that enter the Baie de Carenage, is still gloriously free of human habitation and disturbance. It retains the sense of wilderness and beauty described in 1984, but the land has already been leased for strip mining so the memory bubbles on 360Cities.net and Google Earth will one day soon be all that remains of this natural beauty.

When I took this sphere image I called it "The Cauldron", thinking of a mind experiment described in the Fold in Time. It was about 40 degrees C with the heat of the sun amplified by land that looked and felt like burning coal. The ore content is, strangely enough, just the right proportion of iron and nickel to make stainless steel. So what you see here are the glowing embers of a fire that yielded thousands upon thousands of stainless steel pots, pans, utensils, and other items necessary for our modern existence. I'm a fan of stainless steel and happy to have it for lots of essentials. Like you, I'm techno-dependent. And I realize we can't have our technology without removing the ore from the Earth. I also know we can't do that without causing long-lasting damage to the creatures that live over that ore. Nobody lives around the Baie du Prony because the land is so rich in heavy metals - like chrome - that the soil does not support our agricultural plants and the water is not safe to drink for long periods of time. So there isn't much that stands in the way of the gigantic mining machines. The mining company swears up and down that it's going to be very careful and environmentally safe as it levels the mountains.

If you want to come to New Caledonia and see it now - before the mining comes this way - download a copy of the Guide to New Caledonia and book your reservations. Or if you have a yacht, download a copy of the Cruising Guide to New Caledonia and come enjoy this strange and beautiful wilderness while it lasts.

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Nearby images in New Caledonia

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This panorama was taken in New Caledonia

This is an overview of New Caledonia

New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.

The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.

The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.

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