New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific, is undergoing a process of decolonisation. This French overseas territory is ethnically and socio-economically marked by strong inequalities due to the impacts of colonialism. Only the Nouméa Accord in 1998 finally recognized the injustices of the colonial period (expulsions, violence etc.) and the culture of the Indigenous Kanak people. Since nickel ores were discovered in 1864, mining has been a kind of motor for the country’s economic development. But with the large Koniambo mining project, the Indigenous Kanak are now better involved in the nickel sector, as the Northern Province, governed by the Kanak independence movement, is the majority shareholder in the project.
Our transdisciplinary research project, which includes Indigenous clan representatives, teachers, environmental activists, politicians and mining workers as well as researchers from Australia, Switzerland, England and Austria, aims to examine the relationships between Indigenous communities and mining companies. We will interrogate the role of school education and forms of social education, and traditional ecological knowledge for local capacity building concerning resource extraction. How can people of different ages and genders be better informed to form opinions about mining activities? How can Indigenous communities be more involved in decision-making processes and alter unequal power structures?
A completely new scientific approach is to explore the connections between school and extracurricular education and Indigenous knowledge regarding resources extraction. Conflicts resulting from the different interests of local Indigenous people and multinational corporations are a global phenomenon. Therefore, HEUREKA will produce internationally relevant findings, as we will compare the case of New Caledonia with other examples of mining projects in the world and establish a cross-national basis for face-to-face dialogue between stakeholders through international workshops. On a local level, HEUREKA will develop educational materials such as curriculum proposals, exhibitions, educational films etc., which will strengthen the almost or completely missing dimension of Indigenous knowledge in school lessons.
In order to bring together ideas and expectations of social and scientific stakeholders in the HEUREKA project, clan representatives from the villages of Baco and Touaourou and from the environmental association Environord will make videos with all New Caledonian partners including comments on the project development. The researchers are in constant exchange with the local partners to discuss videos and the HEUREKA full proposal. A classical workshop of the stakeholders could not take place due to the current COVID-19 situation.