French nuclear energy producer Areva will pay 35 million euros ($46.8 million) to the government of Niger, as the company confirms further delays to its Imouraren uranium mining project.

The miner revealed that the uranium plant will now be operation at the earliest by 2014 to 2015, despite original plans having set out a launch date in 2012, which had already been postponed to 2013 prior to the latest push back.

The Niger presidential office has confirmed that the company has agreed to pay the sum to compensate for the protracted delays to operation.

“This money is to compensate a year-long delay which will push production at the mine back to 2014 or 2015,” Massaoudou Hassoumi, chief of staff to President Mamadou Issoufou confirmed.

“All our mining agreements with Areva will be renegotiated in 2013 and there will also be political negotiations with France on the issue of uranium,” he added.

The government is set to sign a ‘protocol’ with Areva which will set out the details regarding the payment.

The Imouraren uranium mine is billed to produce 5,000 tonnes of uranium per year once it becomes operational, more than doubling Niger’s total uranium output.  When Imouraren reaches its planned capacity, Niger will become the second biggest exporter of the nuclear fuel in the world – behind only Kazakhstan.

The reason behind the delays to the project dates back to 2010, when Al-Qaeda members kidnapped seven Areva workers in Niger, near the northern mining town of Arlit.  These kidnappings have led to the French company claiming that security circumstances on the ground are not sufficiently stable to allow for progress in the Niger-based project.

Areva has been operating in Niger for over four decades now, but the country – and other governments across Africa – have been losing faith in the company as it increasingly fails to meet its obligations as set out in concluded agreements.  Most recently, in addition to the delays in Niger, Areva also announced delays to the opening of the Trekkopje uranium plant in Namibia, despite the $1 billion mine being almost complete.


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