Group of islands in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia, west of Vanuatu. They are an overseas territory of France. A referendum on independence was held in 1998 but didn't pass.

Beheading Mountains

New Caledonia is a region of Earth that is an extreme example of modification to the lithosphere.

Nickel, a corrosion resistant metal, as oxidized and accessible ore, occurs in New Caledonia in unusually high abundance, between 1/3-1/4 of the Earth's total known reserves. Though out the twentieth century the French using Japanese and Javanese labor developed an intensive system of open cast mines. Over the century (1890-1990) half a billion tons of ore were moved to extract 2.5 million tons of nickel.

In doing The French successfully destroyed one of the largest coral lagoons in the world from the out pouring of silt from the mines, which also made rivers unnavigable, and covered arable land and sheared off coconut groves.

In addition to the damage done by the mining itself, a nickel smelter was built on the island because of the prohibitive cost of exporting the ore.

  • In the 1930 the sulfurous fumes were so bad that the roof of the missionary church was dissolved.
  • In 1950 bulldozers replaced picks and production increased 10 fold.
  • By 1976 it had increased 100 fold.

What was driving this insatiable hunger for Nickel? America's bloated piggy banks and a plethora of small change? No, It was the escalation of the cold war and the boom in world arms sales, in addition to the Japanese industrial expansion.

As well as an example of humans as a geological force, transporting materials in quantities greater than wind erosion1, Oceanic volcanoes2 and glaciers3, the New Caledonian situation illustrates the action of 'colonial' imperialists at a distance, see Muraroa atoll for another example from the French, and Bikini atoll for a non-Franco example. After 1880 most of the world mining took place in remote parts of the world where policy and constraints were pitiful and ineffective, the New Caledonian example is an extreme example of a common trend of the twentieth century


Annual geological transport of materials:
11 billion tons
230 billion tons
34.3 billion tons

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