French mining and metallurgical group ERAMET, Vale Canada and New Caledonia’s South Province announced they have signed a framework agreement providing for exploration, study, and beneficiation of nickel deposits at Prony and Pernod in the south of New Caledonia.

The agreement, according to ERAMET, is governed by the Mining Code passed by the New Caledonian congress in 2009. Under this code, the deposits were classified as Provincial Technical Reserves by South Province on February 12, 2012.

The agreement follows the declaration of intent signed by the three entities on November 5, 2012, setting out the guidelines of a partnership for the development in New Caledonia of the mineral deposits at Prony and Pernod.

The agreement provides for the creation of a joint venture for the project, owned 34% by South Province, and 33% each by ERAMET and Vale Canada. The JV will first undertake the geological exploration works and technical studies required for improving knowledge on the deposits and the operation of the mine.

If the results are satisfactory, the mining companies may submit one or more industrial processing plans to the province, giving priority to creating synergies with Vale’s and ERAMET’s affiliates in the region (Vale Nouvelle-Caledonie and SLN, respectively) and their existing industrial plants.

ERAMET said the strategic alliance is aligned with the guidelines of the plans for the development of its mining assets by New Caledonia. Under the terms of the deal, ERAMET and Vale would be able to develop a hydro-metallurgy project, working in close collaboration with the competent authorities, to optimize beneficiation of the Prony and Pernod nickel deposits, while maximizing the economic, social and environmental synergies generated by the deposits.