Niger in Talks With Areva for Uranium Mines to Give More Funds

Niger is in negotiations with Areva SA (AREVA) to ensure the world’s second-biggest uranium mining company’s operations contribute more to the nation’s income, Mines Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana said.

The government in Niger, the third-largest uranium- producing nation, wants new agreements for Areva’s Somair and Cominak mines to be more beneficial to the state without increasing its stake or raising taxes, Tchiana said today in an interview in Cape Town. Agreements for the two projects expire at the end of the year.

“We are reflecting and negotiating with Areva to find the best way to do it,” Tchiana said. “We don’t want to increase taxes because that risks slowing investment. We want to find the best formula with our investors. We want to protect investors.”

Niger, a landlocked African country, wants revenue from mining to make up 20 percent to 30 percent of the national budget, more than its current contribution of 5 percent, Tchiana said. The review of contracts will also affect other companies whenever their deal expires, he said.

Somair plans to produce 3,000 metric tons of uranium concentrate from its deposits in northwestern Niger, according to Areva, which owns 63.6 percent of the project. Cominak, the world’s largest underground uranium mine, in 2011 produced 1,433 tons of concentrate, according to the Paris-based company. Areva holds 34 percent of Cominak, the government 31 percent, Japan’s Overseas Uranium Resources Development Co. 25 percent, and Empresa Nacional del Uranio SA of Spain 10 percent.

Imouraren Operation

The talks don’t concern Areva’s Imouraren operation, because its contract still runs for several years, Tchiana said.

Niger will this year revise its mining code to make procedures to receive and manage permits more efficient, Tchiana said.

“We want an attractive mining code to bring in investors,” he said. “We will have a forum with mining companies to get their input as well. We want to make our mining code much more attractive and we want to resolve the problems the mining companies have.”

France has stationed troops at Areva’s mines in Niger, Tchiana said. Niger has sent special forces and attack helicopters to protect the operations, he said.

Niger was the world’s biggest uranium producer behind Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia in 2011, according the London- based World Nuclear Association’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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