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Nigerien government and Areva agree to uranium deal

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Niger's Cabinet approved a uranium production deal with French nuclear group Areva on October 10, after protracted and contentious negotiations. The new 10-year agreement covers the Somair and Cominak mines. Under the deal, Areva agreed to fewer tax breaks and higher royalty rates. The company also agreed to pay to rebuild the road to its mines in Arlit, fund a local development project, and build a new headquarters in the capital Niamey. Plans for Areva to invest in a third mine, at Imouraren, have been put on hold until the uranium price rises.1

Despite the concessions from Areva, the agreement continues to provoke discontent amongst civil society, including trade unions. The agreement has been criticised as favourable to Areva, at the expense of the Nigerien population, with allegations that environmental and other significant issues have been left out of the agreement.2 There have been repeated protests against Areva in recent years in Niger.3

In July, campaigners in Niger were arrested shortly before the French president's visit to Niamey. François Hollande visited to discuss the deployment of French troops in Niger. Around 10 activists, including Ali Idrissa, the national co-ordinator of the Publish What You Pay coalition, and trade union activist Solli Ramatou, were arrested. The day before Hollande's arrival, the coalition held a joint press conference calling for peaceful demonstrations during Hollande's visit. They are calling for Areva and the Nigerien government to publish the details of the uranium deal that was struck in May (and approved by the Cabinet in October).4

"We condemn the arrests of Nigerien civil society activists by the government," said Alice Powell from Publish What You Pay. "Niger's citizens should be free to debate how their natural resources should be managed. It is very disappointing to see the government shut down debate in this manner."4

Security has also been an ongoing issue. Among other incidents, eight employees of Areva and one of its contractors were kidnapped in 2010, and one person was killed and 14 wounded in a car bomb attack at Areva's Somair mine at Arlit in May 2013.5

Reuters reported in September that the US is preparing a possible redeployment of drones in Niger targeting Islamist militants blamed for attacks across the region. The Nigerien government said last year it would welcome the deployment of armed US drones after attacks on the Somair uranium mine and a military barracks in Agadez.6

Environmental and health standards are ongoing problems. "Most people know nothing about the risks," says Idayat Hassan from the Center for Democracy and Development, adding that there is a lack of political will to implement international standards and reduce contamination levels.7

A statement issued by protesters in February complained that 90% of Niger's population lives without electricity while the country "produces enough uranium to light one in every three light bulbs in France."8











More information:

WISE Uranium:
Publish What You Pay:
Nuclear Monitor #779, 20 Feb 2014
Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013