30 years of SMSP’s takeover, Ouaco is in celebration!

The weather was fine on this day of October 10, 2020, the date on which SMSP chose to celebrate its 30 years acquisition by SOFINOR from LAFLEUR Family, on October 5, 1990.

The comings and goings of the sportsmen and organizers set the tone very early on for this sporting and family day. The bright decorations on the stalls with their displays of plants, fruit, vegetables and handicrafts contributed to a real festive atmosphere. The mix of pleasant smells of coffee, skewers and other delicacies whetted the appetite of the visitors. In addition, local products such as bougnas, deer salad or pieces of smoked eels captivated their curiosity. More than 500 people gathered in Ouaco to take part in these festivities, including officials, sportsmen and women, organizers, volunteers dispatched between the checkpoints of the three tracks and the village, SMSP Group staff members and those of its subsidiaries NMC, KNS, COTRANSMINE and SNNC, as well as exhibitors and the public.

On the day’s schedule: 3 race courses, an exhibition on Ouaco history on the period before 1990 and since 30 years with SMSP, two planned visits of Ouaco Village historical buildings, two visits of the Ouazanghou Mine and Workshops as well as other entertainments in the village.

1. Trail side


In a festive atmosphere, SMSP trail’s first competitors gathered around 6am, including those who had arrived the day before and camped on the spot. The village of Ouaco woke up, packed with people, and the very last registrations having been able to be made for the first departure at 7:00 am of the 30 km long course.

The other competitors of the 13 km track fill the three 50 seats coaches, parked in the village main square since dawn, to be taken to the planned starting point on the mines course.

As for the start on the 5 km family race, which brings together 132 competitors including children, parents and/or accompanying adults, it was given at 8.00 am. All the participants of this course took part in the reforestation of an identified site in the village of Ouaco. Each competitor, regardless of age, planted a tree.

Several prizes were decided for the female and male and men participants in the two major races of the Trail, including sculptures, vegetable/fruit baskets and Ouaco books. For the family run, the prizes were awarded by drawing lots for the bib numbers. Prizes were awarded at 12.30pm. In order of arrival the first three winners of the Striking Trail of 30 kms are: Antoine GUYONNEAU (arrival time 03:57:24), Tanguy LAPOINTE (04:34:32) and Ronan POULIQUEN (04:36:46). As for the Mini Trail of 13kms winners: Henrick RIEU (01:59:40), Alan TEINBOANOU (01:59:40) and Benjamin DOCKES (01:59:41).

2. Customary performances

Two customary exchanges have been listed on the agenda. The first was performed a day before, on Friday 9 October, between the elected Members of the Northern Province along with Gomen Customary Representatives and on the other side, the Ouaco Mining Centre’s Head, SMSP Director General and SMSP’s subsidiaries representatives, as well as PHOK Association and Challenge Organization representatives, as a welcoming gesture. Following this customary exchange, the participants planted two emblematic trees, notably a coconut tree and a fir plant tree which will bear the SMSP-SOFINOR’s 30th Anniversary token.

A custom of appreciation and goodbye to the chiefs and representatives of the Kaala-Gomen customary areas was held on Saturday at the end of the day, a ceremony that closed the official part of the event. 

3. Officials side

The Northern Province President, Paul NEAOUTYINE planned to be present on this occasion, accompanied by several elected Members of the North Province, and members of the SOFINOR/SMSP Board of Directors: notably Joseph GOROMIDO, also President of SOFINOR, Gérard POADJA, and Senator of the French Republic, Laurent NEMIA, Jean CREUGNET, Nadia HEO, Elisabeth POMA and Patricia GOA. In addition, other local elected officials were also present including Joël BOATATE-KOLEKOLE Mayor of Voh, Lucien DOUYERE, Deputy Mayor of Kaala-Gomen, Jeamania PAETEN-WHAAP, President of the Customary Council of the Hoot Ma Whaap Area, Rodrigue POYGNENA, Kaala-Gomen High Chief, Hervé TEIN-TAOUVA as well as Gaston and Vincent JIZDNY respectively Honorary President and President of PHOK Association.

4. Speeches


According to SOFINOR President, Joseph GOROMIDO: “The SMSP’s takeover by SOFINOR in 1990 opened up the nickel sector to the Kanak world. It is the realization of a dream consisting in allowing our populations to control the country’s resource and no longer be merely satisfied in exporting it for the profits of foreign interests. As President of SOFINOR, but also as an elected Member of the Northern Province and former Mayor of Koné, I can only express my congratulation of this takeover operation, 30 years on. For who knows what the country would be today if the Kanak people had not been able to access this economic sector. What would the Northern Province be without the SMSP?”

The President of the Northern Province, Paul NEAOUTYINE recalls SMSP’s History. “Thirty years ago, the Northern Province acquired SMSP with the support of the French State within the framework of Matignon-Oudinot Agreements, to make it a tool for economic rebalancing in the nickel sector. A field in which there was not much Caledonian public presence, since Eramet and SLN were in majority owned by the French state. It was in Matignon that Jacques LAFLEUR, then SMSP’s President, addressed Jean-Marie TJIBAOU – ” To allow the Kanaks to enter the nickel sector, and through the Northern Province, I am going to hand over SMSP “. I have a thought for our executives who departed on 28 November 2000. We trained them for this company since the acquisition, to carry out SMSP operations and make it an economic rebalancing operator which, through the valorization of nickel resources, should allow economic diversification”.

Karl THERBY, Managing Director of SMSP, paid tribute to the work accomplished by André DANG over the last 30 years. “It is with great pleasure and great respect that I would like to address a word of thanks to André DANG who fought and continues to fight, against all odds, to make SMSP what it is today. I pay a special tribute to him and show him my immense respect for all the work he has done for this group. For let us not forget that in 1990, when it was taken over by SOFINOR, SMSP had 120 employees and was only SLN landlord. It did not possess any mining domain. Following its takeover, SMSP undertook to acquire its mining estate. Why was this necessary? To become an exporter, the first Caledonian Exporter. Although it may seem contrary to the doctrine today, but it was a compulsory step, to be recognized and be known in this nickel global sector.

It was a compulsory passage that allowed the group to come into contact and relation with the metallurgists. The first was Falconbridge for the Northern Plant Project. A very complicated project, in front of the eyes of many witnesses, who committed themselves and demonstrated to obtain access to the resource. Thanks to this mobilization, the plant was able to see the light of day and achieve its first casting in 2013. Today, KNS represents 510 billion xpf of spin-offs. Everybody talks about the debt, but in order to industrialize, you have to invest, and to invest you have to get into debt.

But we must not neglect to talk about the economic spin-offs. KNS today represents 1000 employees, 92% of whom are local job-keepers. The plant has enabled many young Caledonians to be trained as supervisors, engineers and managers. KNS also employs 500 subcontractors. That is a total of 1500 people working there, based and living in the North, allowing economic rebalancing, SMSP’s primary mission.

SMSP also has also a unique model in the world of partnership between a Korean Steelmaker POSCO and a Caledonian Miner as of 2010. 14 years later, 1300 persons are working for this group. The plant in Korea has also brought 10 billion xpf in dividends, which represent the added value issued by the transformation of our natural resources, and economic returns to the country.

30 years later, SMSP is the leading producer of nickel metal with more than 70,000 tons with nearly 3,000 employees.

This result has been the fruit of sacrifices and very sorrowful times. We will not forget to honour today those who lost their lives 30 years ago for the success of this company. Their memory has been honoured every year since then, by the group’s employees. They will never be forgotten. And this event was a driving force for us to pursue our efforts for its development. Other projects are underway, an offshore plant project in China, in which SMSP holds 51% of the capital.

Finally, I would like to thank all the runners and participants of this event, the exhibitors, the GIE PN and the PN Cultural Department for their crucial support in the organization of this day, PHOK association, as well as all the volunteers and employees of the group who devoted a lot of energy to this gathering of this Day of Anniversary. A big appreciation and thank to the Town Halls of Kaala-Gomen and Voh and the customary people who helped us and who are still with us today. I would like to thank all the group employees: KNS, NMC, COTRANSMINE and SNNC who are mobilized and form a big family and make SMSP such a special company to which we are so attached. »

Vincent DOUYERE, Deputy Mayor of Kaala-Gomen: “The day after the historic handshake between Jean-Marie TJIBAOU and Jacques LAFLEUR, the latter sold his SMSP’s mining estates to SOFINOR. This was the first gesture that enabled the economic rebalancing of the Northern Province, and allowed the Kanaks to integrate the mining economic sector. As SOFINOR and SMSP’s economic domain, NMC is an indispensable tool within the North Province, which operates and supplies its sister company in Korea, in which SMSP holds majority shares. SMSP through its subsidiaries NMC and COTRANSMINE, provides jobs directly and to its subcontractors, rollers and load managers in many cities and municipalities in the North Province, such as Kaala-Gomen, for which it is the main jobs’ provider. As far as the Kaala-Gomen town hall is concerned, SMSP will always find an ally. This anniversary is also the anniversary of those who have committed themselves in your side during these 30 years of operation. My wish for you and for the next 30 years is the achievement of all your new projects that the country so much needs. Long life SMSP!

Jeamania PAETEN-WHAAP, the President of the Customary Council of the Hoot Ma Whaap Area. “The customary area has 17 chiefdoms and I would like to remind you that the customary chiefs, especially those living near the mines, also participated in the establishment of these economic tools. It’s true that for us, the priority is the environment. But we have to reconcile this and we are used to say what we own belongs to the country. But in reality this is not always obvious. But we, the customary people, are also here to facilitate economic development. Do we respect our values? The ties to the land? To the mountains? But we must support the economic development of our country. These are the challenges we face. Because our concerns are towards the future generations and we must work together with companies such as SMSP to secure the country’s economic future.

Gaston JIZDNY, the Honorary President of the PHOK (Historical Heritage of Ouaco and Kaala-Gomen) was keen to recall the importance of the existence of this association, which, in its quest to be the guardian of memory, brings together those who are present and those who have left. “We are very happy to see you all gathered here in Ouaco today on this occasion of anniversary celebration. And we are very proud to present you the history of this village through its buildings that contain the life of Ouaco as it was lived. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this day. I encourage the young people of Ouaco, and especially the Head of the Centre, to continue to share and preserve the rich historical heritage of Ouaco for future generations”.

5. Historical village of Ouaco

Visit of the village

The tour of the historical buildings begins at the Management Villa and includes the passage to the dock (presently Chez Marcel Shop); the central alleyway of the village with anecdotes by Gaston JIZDNY, notably on the remains of the village school, as well as the factory with its annex buildings relating to the different stages of production: slaughtering, cutting and processing of meat, canning up to packing.

Indeed, beyond the mine, Ouaco Village was well known for its canning factory, which went into production in 1888 with an annual production capacity of 1000 tons of canned food. At that time, it had established international links, since it exported its canned foodstuffs to mainland France (Ministry of War 30,000 canned foodstuffs per year), to the Wallis and Futuna Islands and also to the then New Hebrides (Vanuatu).

The public was satisfied with this visit and hopes that this action will carry on in long run in order to highlight Ouaco’s Historical Heritage. This activity was carried out by Jean-Romaric NEA (Direction of Culture of the Northern Province), Gaston JIZDNY Honorary President and Vincent JIZDNY President of PHOK Association as well as Josette KROMOWIRONO a member. A big thank you to Vincent ITALIANO, a former Ouaco childhood, who was present among the visitors and who contributed by additional explanations and historical points of view of Ouaco.

Will NERHO, best known under his artist name “WillStyle the artist” comes from Néaua Tribe in Houailou. He has several strings to his bow: painter, graffiti artist, illustrator, stencil maker or linocutter. Where does he get his talents as an artist? “I have an uncle who is a sculptor. But since I was a child I loved painting. Between the ages of 4 and 7, I started and applied myself to colouring black and white parts of comic books such as Spirou, Spiderman or others”. WillStyle the artist who is followed by many Caledonians, has generously accepted to make a painting on the walls of the old factory, at the request of Josée KONDOLO, Secretary of the PHOK Association. “This fresco represents the chronological economic development of Ouaco Village: cattle breeding, canning, common destiny, mining and metallurgy. The mowing and the wooden puzzle represent the NC Historical Handshake between Jacques LAFLEUR and Jean-Marie TJIBAOU” he explains. And the factory on a higher level? “The objectives of the nickel doctrine, the transformation and upgrading of the natural resource for better economic spin-offs”. He concludes.

An exhibition of photos and documents relating to the history of Ouaco has been located in the management villa. It covers four different periods in the history of Ouaco and in particular: the history of the cannery, the telegraph, the Lafleur family era and the 30-year history of the SMSP, a mining company.

6. Visit of the Ouazanghou Mine and the Port of Téoudié

Two visits have been planned on the schedule: one with a departure at 9.00 am in the morning and the other scheduled departure at 1.30 pm in the afternoon. David PENNEL, a Group’s Employee who took part in the 13 km track in the morning, took the opportunity to be part of the afternoon visit. “We were very well received and taken care of by the NMC staff. Even those who had not been registered had the opportunity to take part in the tour, occupying the extra seats in the bus, or being taken care of by the 8 vehicles provided by NMC. The route was good, we were able to see re-vegetation works, mining equipment, mining machines in operation etc.” Three stops were scheduled to allow visitors to enjoy beautiful panoramas of the Ouazanghou mine. In particular, two on the mine site, one of which is on an operating site with a presentation of the various mining equipment, and the other in the new offices on the mine site including an exhibition of the various stages of the mining operation.

The visit concluded with a tour of the seaside where visitors were able to view the entire ore storage and drying site from a platform and follow the loading operations, in particular the back and forth movement of the trucks unloading their cargoes, as well as those of the tugs driving the barges loaded with ore in their wake towards the ore carrier visible offshore. David concludes, “it was a very interesting and successful visit. The NMC staff are very friendly and very smiling. They are very enthusiastic and proud to show us their profession and their working tools.”

7. Stands side

Information stands
Subsidiaries stands

A total of 28 stands, including information stands such as the geological discovery stand, the Zero Waste stand, the DDE (Northern Province Departement of Economic and Environment) stand devoted to instructions / lunch box and the environmental impacts stand, enabled the public to familiarize themselves with these new concept and products.

According to Matthieu DESESQUELLES from the AMETISTE association of geologists: “Presenting a collection of rocks and minerals from the Northern Province, we were lucky to have many people from all walks of life: families who came especially for the trail, people living in the region and of course employees from the surrounding mines. All day long there were enriching exchanges with our visitors, some more interested in the typical mineralization of the mining massifs, others in the geological history of New Caledonia, and others on the contrary very interested to discover that there were plenty of other minerals outside the mine. The organization of this day went very well and we are happy to have been able to contribute to this great celebration by promoting the heritage of the North”.

Stands for sewing, weaving, sculpture and exhibition-sale workshops offered in their displays various products such as woven baskets, models of local popinée’s dresses, or other local handicrafts.

The numerous food stands allowed all participants to eat on site. “In our stand, we sold bougnas served in woven coconut leaves in order to respect the Day’s zero waste theme. This is the first time we have done this. And as a drink we offered home-made fruit juice. Between 11:00 and 14:00 we sold everything. We are very satisfied” explains Marie-Danielle DOUI.

In terms of waste management, according to Yannick LE NOC, manager of Eco-cup “In my opinion, the result in terms of volume of rubbish, in kind of waste that has been collected (mostly cardboard trays) is without question very visible because they are very few in number. I think that the milestones are set so that during the next SMSP event, the “zero waste” and “waste reduction” aspect will be followed and respected with this first experience.

SMSP’s 30th anniversary is also an opportunity to bring together all the Group’s subsidiaries. A large stand that brings together the 4 SMSP subsidiaries: NMC, SNNC, COTRANSMINE and KNS. Visitors were interested in the specific activities of the Group’s companies. Great freshness, the discovery by the Northern Province Public of the SNNC Plant located in South Korea with the presentation on the spot of its finished and semi-finished products such as ferronickel and slags. Visitors were welcomed by Sybille POAOUTETA for KNS, Christelle VERDIER and Jimmy GNAY for COTRANSMINE, Byung-Ho LIM and Yeul-Ho LEE for SNNC, Isabelle WABETE, Stéphanie MINE, Olivier HNIMINAU and Brigitte METUA for NMC.

Jean LEE participated in welcoming Northern Province Visitors in SNNC Stall. He comes from Korea to take part in the NMC-SNNC Project. “Last year I started work for NMC as Commercial Manager, in-charge of the exportation New Caledonia’s nickel ore intended to the refinery factory in Korea. I believe this event was meaningful to share the success story SMSP/POSCO partnership and therefore of a global collaboration between New Caledonia and Korea. I am very lucky to be able to participate in this event because I experienced the energy and the passion within the community towards SMSP/POSCO partnership. From my point of view, it was obvious that SMSP and its subsidiaries companies grow together with the people from the Northern Province. The children and youth that I met today will someday take part in our company and will contribute to its development to take one step ahead for Caledonia economic betterment. Thank you SMSP for arranging the event and hope it will continue to blossom in the future.”