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France admits Niger bid to up uranium levy legitimate

media Areva's site at Arlit in Niger AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

France has admitted that Niger's demand for more revenue from uranium mining on its soil is legitimate. French-owned energy giant Areva is renegotiating the amount of royalties it should pay Niger for its mining operations there.

Areva operates two mines at Somaïr and Cominak in the north of the country and the uranium is vital for France's nuclear power programme which provides the country's electricity.

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The company’s contract with Niamey expired at the end of last year.

Under deals signed in 1961 and 1968 Areva pays royalties of 5.5 per cent.

Niger wants to apply a 2006 mining law that ends tax breaks for foreign companies and would raise the tax rate to 12 per cent and negotiations between the compnay and Niger's government are reported to have been "intense".

French Development Minister Pascal Canfin, a member of the Green party, EELV, which in principle opposes nuclera power told the French parliament on Wednesday that the two parties have set a deadline for of the end of February to sign an agreement and that the french government considers Niger’s requests to be legitimate.

Niger ranks last on the United Nations Human Development Index.

Four Areva employees were freed last October after being captured in Niger and held for three years by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

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