Niger: Just because you got kidnapped doesn't mean you can't finish the uranium mine

It's no excuse, country tells French nuclear company Areva following Al Qaeda activity. The uranium business ain't what it used to be.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Uranium nation. Niger could become the world's second largest uranium exporter, after Kazakhstan. Above, Areva's operations in the African country.

Uranium is a particularly tough business these days.

The price of the nuclear fuel is falling as demand tapers in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Financing for mines is hard to come by.

And then there are those pesky kidnappings. Two years ago in Niger, thugs nabbed 7 workers helping to build a massive uranium mine under construction by French nuclear company Areva in the town of Imourarene in the north central region. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility. Four of the hostages remain in captivity; three are free.

The unfortunate events have helped pushed back the mine's originally planned 2012 production startup to an uncertain 2013 or 2014. So has a labor dispute.

Now, Niger is running out of patience. It wants that mine, darnit.  Once complete, Imouraren, as it's called, would make Niger the world's second largest uranium exporter after Kazakhstan. (Areva runs other uranium operations in Namibia, and China will need the stuff for the nuclear reactors it's building).

As Reuters reports, the government is telling Areva to get cracking. "The deadline for finishing civil engineering on the site must be strictly met," Niger Mines Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana said on state television, according to the article. "It is out of the question for Niger to endorse a company that is unable to honor its commitments."

He did not specify a sanction.

Oh come on Areva. I suppose the dog ate your homework, too?

Image: Areva

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