The Thio mining center has been operating since 1880, and is at the historic heart of nickel mining in New Caledonia. The Le Plateau (The Plateau) mine, which is at an altitude of around 600 meters, is the oldest open face mine in the world still in operational use.
The Thio mining center in the South Province, on the east coast, around 120 kilometers from Noumea (it takes a good two hours to get there), is the historic home of SLN (Société Le Nickel) and the heart of nickel mining elsewhere in the world.
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The only overhead cable car
Apart from the famous Le Plateau mine, which is just a short distance from the village, SLN also has the Le Camp des Sapins (The Pine Tree Camp) mine, which is at 800 meters altitude nearly 40 kilometers from Thio. This is where you will find the only overhead cable car in New Caledonia. It carries mineral as far as the shore.
Worldwide historic cradle of nickel mining
It was at Thio that the first nickeliferous mineral was extracted in New Caledonia, and where the worldwide nickel industry was thus born. While SLN’s foundry is now at Noumea (on the Doniambo site), two units have been operated in situ. The first was at Ouroué from 1889 to 1891, and then at Thio Mission from 1912 to 1930. SLN even had its head office there from 1921 to 1923. It is true that, at that time, Thio had a port able to accommodate the big mineral cargo sailing ships. The pioneers of the mineral industry were harvesting mineral with a nickel content better than 10%! This is a quite-exceptional figure that has inevitably considerably dropped over the decades. After the surface green minerals were exhausted, it has always been necessary to dig deeper and deeper to continue extracting the precious Caledonian “green gold”.
A visit not to be missed for any reason
The tour of the Le Plateau mine is a real must that is organized once per month (you can get information from the Thio Tourist Office)! When you see the only visitable mine in the territory in the company of an SLN engineer, you quickly get an impression of the gigantic nature of the excavation works necessary to keep bringing in the “precious” metal. Don't miss it, no matter what! Afterwards, you're recommended to continue on and visit the recently-renovated museum of mining in the heart of Thio village.