Niger, one of the world's top sources of uranium, will review its dealings with French firm Areva, which has been mining there for nearly 50 years, the country's prime minister said Sunday.

"We are going to discuss the question of uranium with our traditional partner Areva," the world's second-largest uranium producer, Brigi Rafini told reporters.

"We are preparing in particular to review our contracts."

Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, would go over the contracts "with a fine tooth comb," he vowed, amid accusations that the partnership is unbalanced.

He specified that contracts with Areva subsidiaries Somair and Cominak, which end in 2013, would be reviewed.

"It's the first time that we're going to do this. For several decades, these contracts have been renewed automatically," explained the prime minister.

"Now we need to put them on the table and go through them with a fine tooth comb to make sure Niger gets its share," Rafini added.

In October last year, Niger said the relationship between the country and the firm was "very unbalanced" and said it wanted a bigger share of the proceeds.

The group's total production in Niger is nearly 3,600 tonnes, second only to its production in Kazakhstan.

But the company's heavy presence in Niger has also given rise to tensions with the local authorities.

In April, Areva said it had agreed to pay 35 million euros ($47 million) over three years to the country, partly to compensate for the delay in opening a giant mine at Imouraren, now set for mid-2015.

That mine, expected to become the second-biggest open-cast uranium plant in the world, represents an investment of more than 1.2 billion euros.

Areva employs 2,700 people in Niger and estimates the workforce of its subcontractors there to number around 5,000.

In May, Islamists attacked the Somair facility, causing some 20 deaths.

 

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