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New Caledonia and Dependencies

New Caledonia and Dependencies, overseas territory of France, situated in the


south-western Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. The territory comprises the island
of New Caledonia and a number of smaller islands and island groups. The
dependencies include the Loyalty Islands, east of New Caledonia; the Isle of
Pines, to the south-east; the Chesterfield Islands, to the west; and the Huon
Islands, to the north-west. The total area is 19,058 sq km (7,358 sq mi). The
population (1989) is 164,173, yielding an average density of 9 people per sq km
(22 per sq mi). About 43 per cent of the population is composed of Melanesians
(Kanaks), and about 37 per cent is European, mainly French, (Caldoches); the
remaining inhabitants include Vietnamese, Polynesians, and Indonesians. The
capital, largest city, and main port of the territory is Nouma (population, 1989,
65,110). Most of the inhabitants are Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic.
About 50,800 pupils were enrolled in primary, secondary, and vocational schools
in the mid-1980s.
The economy of New Caledonia is based on a variety of activities: agriculture
(copra, coffee, and food crops); stock raising; fishing and forestry; tourism; and,
most important, mining (especially nickel, iron, and manganese ores). Annual
production of nickel ore in the late 1980s was about 2.8 million tonnes.
Manufacturing industries, mainly food processing and metallurgy, are being
developed. Major exports are unprocessed minerals and refined nickel. Chief
imports are petroleum products, coal, coke, machines, and electrical equipment.
The unit of currency is the CFP franc, consisting of 100 centimes; since January 1,
2002, the CFP franc has been linked to the Euro (as at early 2002, 1.11 Euros
equalled US$1).
The island of New Caledonia was sighted in 1774 by the British navigator James
Cook, who gave it the Latin name for Scotland. It was annexed by France in 1853
and was organized as an overseas territory in 1946. In July 1984 the French
parliament passed legislation providing for internal autonomy, and territorial
elections were held in 1985. Two years later, New Caledonians voted to remain
part of France, in an election largely boycotted by Melanesians. After violent
outbreaks by Melanesian separatists, France in 1989 introduced a new system of
administration. The territory was divided into three provinces, each with an
elected assembly; together the three assemblies comprise the 54-member
Territorial Congress. An appointed high commissioner represents the French
government, and New Caledonia elects two deputies and one senator to the

French parliament. The French government has scheduled another independence


referendum for New Caledonia for 1998. In a referendum in November 1998,
New Caledonia voters strongly approved an agreement giving the territory more
autonomy.
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