• Uranium Major Niger Urged to Review Contracts

    The new junta ruling in Niger, one of the world's biggest uranium producers, should review and possibly renegotiate dozens of resource exploitation contracts, civil rights groups said on Saturday.

    The West African state, which produces 7.5 percent of the world's uranium, has a longstanding partnership with French nuclear group Areva as well as more recent ones with Canadian, Chinese, South Korean and other groups.

    "Given the opacity surrounding the granting of mining and oil permits in recent years, we urge the immediate creation of a commission of inquiry ... and any necessary steps, notably the renegotiation of contracts," the ROTAB group, a collective of anti-corruption pressure groups, said in a statement.

    President Mamadou Tandja was deposed in a February 18 coup after he forced through constitutional changes to extend his five-year term, due to have expired in December.

    Despite its resource riches, Niger remains one of the world's poorest and least-developed countries.

    The coup leaders have set up a transitional government of technocrats and military officials and have promised to stage elections in which they would take no part.

    No date has been set for the polls and the junta has given no clear sign of whether it plans to review investments before then.

    In the past five years Tandja had issued around 130 exploration and exploitation permits for uranium, oil and other resources. A 2007-2009 rebellion in the north meant only around 10 percent of the permits have so far been activated.


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