Areva vs Niger continues; Oxfam weighs in, Areva counters

Tuesday, 25 February, 2014

The previously-reported conflict between uranium miners Areva (87% owned by the French government) and the government of Niger trundles on - as you might expect it to, given the stakes.  Most recently, Areva have released a point-by-point denial of claims by Oxfam that they are shirking their responsibilities to Niger.

A précis: after a drawn out period of conflict over taxes, Niger’s civil society organised recent demonstrations - subsequently banned -  in Niamey calling on the Niger government to respect the Mining Law of 2006. This law would levy taxes on Areva to which they were not previously subject, having until now been operating under agreements established earlier, in 2004. The sums, which relate to Areva’s stakes in the Somair and Cominak mines (both of which remain currently closed “for maintenance”) are very large indeed. More than a third of Areva's uranium production comes from Niger, and the government wants to increase the company’s royalties from 5.5% of revenues to 12%.

Now UK-based international development NGO Oxfam have joined the dialogue. Partners with Nigerian pro-transparency civil society coalition ROTAB, Oxfam denounced Areva’s approach to negotiations in December of last year. Earlier this week they took more direct action, submitting a petition signed by over 15,000 people to the Elysée (the official residence of the President of the Republic of France, for the Philistines among you), calling for an end to Areva pressure on Niger.

In an recent article, Olivier Wantz, a Member of the Board of Areva and Deputy Director General in charge of Mines, issues his point by point rebuttal, stating, among other things, that 82% of Areva’s revenues go to Niger shareholders, with 90% of direct revenue in 2013 going to the State of Niger; that Areva provides 5,000 jobs and 6m Euros in annual investment in local infrastructure “including health, education and development”; and that Areva has met and plans to continue to meet its responsibilities to the state of Niger.

Outwardly intractable positions seem to have been taken by both sides of this debate. Since we picked up on it at the end of last year little progress seems to have been made, and we suspect it'll run for some time. As ever, we’ll keep you updated.