Niger's uranium standoff over?

Tuesday, 27 May, 2014

It's not often you get to report the end of a nuclear standoff. Hopefully that's a fact that remains true as long as we're in this job.  But we get relatively close today: after an interminable contretemps we’ve been following since last year, it looks like we may have reached the point at which French nuclear group and uranium miners Areva agree on something with the government of Niger.

NB For wider discussion/context, see previous articles at the links below:

Yesterday, as outlined in this article in Le Monde [French], the two parties  announced an  agreement renewing Areva’s contract to operate two uranium mines. This new agreement is initially set up for ten years.

Niger had been holding out for what they saw asa a more “balanced” agreement that allows the country to generate more revenue from uranium extraction. President Mahamadou Issoufou spoke to TV5 Monde, Le Monde and Radio France Internationale on May 18 to illustrate this stance: “There is an injustice in uranium as an energy source,” he said. “It is not paid according to its value".

The crux of the standoff consisted of tax exemptions granted to Areva under old agreements predating, and exempted the French firm from, the provisions of the country’s 2006 Mining Law stipulating a 12% royalty on the value of ore mined. Areva’s agreements said 5.5% - a major gap. 

Areva’s concerns in Niger will, however, be exempt from VAT under the new agreement. 

Areva has also agreed to fund a roadbuilding project to the tune of €90 million and an agricultural development programme worth€17 million. The 
French group will also build a new HQ in Niamey for all the country’s Areva subsidiaries and linked companies, and has pledged to privilege nominations of citizens of Niger as CEOs.