New Caledonia has elected Louis Mapou as its first pro-independence president since a 1998 deal with Paris to grant more political power to the French Pacific territory, Radio Australia reports.
Prior referendums in 2018 and 2020 failed to win a majority in favour of independence, but support for remaining as part of France dropped from 56.7 percent in 2018 to 53.26 percent in 2020.
Mapou sits on the board of directors of France’s Eramet, which runs nickel mines, the Doniambo ferro-nickel plant near the port of Noumea, and a refinery that produces a type of nickel that can be used in electric vehicle batteries.
He also worked as the director general of New Caledonia’s Rural Development and Land Development Agency from 1998 to 2005.
The nickel-rich territory has been seeing fresh interest from international companies searching for materials to fuel the ongoing electric vehicle boom.