|Africa News Digest
Niger and Areva Bury the Hatchet, Reach Mining Agreement
PARIS, Jan. 14 (EIRNS)After a war of nerves which lasted eight months, the Niger government finally obtained a very good deal for selling uranium to the French nuclear company Areva. Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and Niger President Mamadou Tandja yesterday announced that the price of uranium will be increased by 50% in 2008 and 2009, and Areva will launch exploitation of the mammoth deposits in Imouraren, where it plans to invest more than 1 billion euros. According to Areva, Imouraren is "the greatest industrial mining project ever to be envisaged in Niger, putting it in the second rank worldwide with production of 5,000 tons" of uranium per year, with "1,400 permanent employees and numerous indirect jobs created." Furthermore, Niger will be allowed to market more than the 300 tons permitted in 2007.
France has had a monopoly on Niger's uranium for nearly 30 years, mining up to 40% of its own uranium needs there. Reinforced by the presence of China and Canada as competitors, Niger, a former French colony which is one of the poorest countries in the world, stood up for its rights to use its resources for development in the recent negotiations, and extracted the much better contract from Areva. For nearly 30 years, France paid a single yearly sum to Niger for uranium, regardless of specific market conditions, and without revealing to the Niger government how many tons of uranium were extracted! The Niger government was also not allowed to market any of its uranium on its own, for alleged French security reasons.
Whenever Niger authorities demanded improved conditions, differences were "settled" through coups d'état and sometimes even the death of those making the demands. When it came time last year to renew these longstanding contracts, Niger opened up negotiations, this time playing hardball. They went as far as denouncing the role of Areva in the Touareg rebellion, which has been destabilizing the northern part of the country since February 2007, jailed several French journalists accused of working for the rebellion, and kicked out Dominique Pin, the CEO of Areva in Niger. On Oct. 26, during Niger's fight with Areva, Nouvelle Solidarité, newspaper of the LaRouche co-thinker organization in France, published the entire story on Niger's fight in an interview with Niger éminence grise, Ibrahim Loutou. Nouvelle Solidarité also called for France to help Niger to replenish the waters of Lake Chad as part of an overall deal.
South Africa Seeks Bids for New Nuclear Power Station
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)South Africa has asked for bids to be submitted for a proposed new nuclear power reactor, the Cape Times reported on its website today. Eskom, South Africa's state-owned electricity company, has asked Westinghouse and Areva to submit bids for its new nuclear power station. This would be the first of five or six Eskom wants to build. "We want to receive and evaluate the bids in the first quarter of this year and then report back to our board at the end of March," Tony Stott, Eskom spokesman, said. Eskom wants to start construction by 2010 and have the plant working by 2016.
The urgency to get new nuclear capacity online was underscored when Eskom had to institute "load shedding," or scheduled blackouts, for up to two and a half hours at a time, over the past two days, which continued today, and are expected to continue for the rest of this week. The utility said the reason for the rolling blackouts, is its low reserve margin, meaning that there wasn't enough reserve capacity to cover demand during routine maintenance or any technical difficulties, South Africa's Engineering News explained today.