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|Native name: Îles Loyauté|
|Major islands||Lifou Island, Maré Island, Tiga Island, Ouvéa Island, Mouli Island, Faiava Island|
|Area||1,981 km2 (765 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||138 m (453 ft)|
|Overseas territory||New Caledonia|
|Pop. density||8.80 /km2 (22.79 /sq mi)|
The Loyalty Islands (French: Îles Loyauté) are an archipelago in the Pacific. They are part of the French territory of New Caledonia, whose mainland is 100 km (62 mi) away. They form the Loyalty Islands Province (province des îles Loyauté), one of the three provinces of New Caledonia. It has 17,000 people living on almost 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles). The native inhabitants are the Kanak people and the Tavu'avua' people.
The first Western contact on record is attributed to British Captain William Raven of the whaler Britannia, who in 1793 was on his way from Norfolk Island to Batavia. It is very likely, however, that the discovery and name goes back to the London ship Loyalty (also Loyalist, Jethro Daggett master), on a South Sea trading voyage from 1789 till 1790.
The archipelago consists of six inhabited islands: Lifou Island, Maré Island, Tiga Island, Ouvéa Island, Mouli Island, and Faiava Island, as well as several smaller uninhabited islands and islets. Their combined land area is 1,981 km2 (765 sq mi). The highest elevation is at 138 m (453 ft) above sea level on Maré Island.
The people of the Loyalty Islands are of mixed Melanesian and Polynesian ancestry, with a small European minority. They numbered 17,436 at the 2009 census, a 7.9% reduction from the 22,080 as at the preceding 2004 census. Several thousands more natives live in Nouméa (New Caledonia's capital) and in the mining areas of New Caledonia's mainland. The chief export of the Loyalty Islands is copra. The islands are part of the New Caledonia rain forests ecoregion.
Of 14 seats in the province's congress, the nationalist Caledonian Union holds four, the anti-independence Rally for Caledonia in the Republic holds two, and the National Union for Independence-Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, Socialist Kanak Liberation, Renewed Caledonian Union and Union of Pro-Independence Co-operation Committees each have two.
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