by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Dec 06, 2013
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said in Paris on Friday that his country wanted to renew its uranium mining agreement with French nuclear giant Areva, but on more equitable terms.
"The negotiations are proceeding normally," Issoufou said on the sidelines of a Franco-African summit in Paris on peace and security. "Our aim is to balance out the relations between us and Areva."
Areva's contract to extract uranium in the west African country expires on December 31, after more than four decades of mining at two sites on the southern edge of the Sahara, with a third under development.
The French group and the Niger government are engaged in talks to renegotiate the terms for a further 10 years and Niamey has been pressing for a greater share of revenue from Areva's activities.
Issoufou said that the content of the current conventions signed by the former French colony and Areva in the 1970s were shaped by "the balance of power of the time" and pointed out that "the world has changed."
He said: "It is a game between equals."
He stressed that Niger had long been committed to "a strategic partnership" with Areva. "We want the partnership to last, and for that it must be balanced," he added.
He also said that mining at the giant site of Imouraren should begin late in 2015 or early the next year, adding that "it was by taking Areva's concerns into account that we came up with this timetable by joint agreement."
Areva chief executive Luc Oursel said early in the week at a debate on nuclear energy: "Our cooperation with Niger has lasted for 40 years. Our goal is that it should also last for a very long time."
On Wednesday, the charity Oxfam urged French President Francois Hollande to ensure that "the negotiations take place in the greatest transparency" to ensure that "no pressure is put on the government of Niger".
The French state holds a stake of more than 80 percent in Areva.
Niger is the fourth-ranking producer of uranium, after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia, according to the World Nuclear Association, which gave the African country's total output in 2011 as 4,351 tonnes.
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