China extends Niger $95m uranium project loan

26 April 2009 | 05:27 Code : 19037 Geoscience events
China has granted Niger a $95 million preferential loan to boost a uranium...

China has granted Niger a $95 million preferential loan to boost a uranium mining project the two countries have in the West African state, Niger’s government said late on Thursday.Niger’s government is a 33 percent joint venture partner with the China National Uranium Corporation (SINO-U) in the SOMINA uranium mining operation, due to come on line by 2010, with an annual output of about 700 tonnes.The entry into Niger of Chinese miners and Cameco Corp (CCO.TO: Quote), the world’s top uranium producer that now has a stake in GoviEx, a company with local exploration rights, follows years of dominance by French nuclear group Areva (CEPFi.PA: Quote)."China has agreed to the Export-Import Bank of China granting Niger a preferential loan of 650 million yuan ($95.22 million) with a view to supporting the SOMINA uranium exploration project," Niger’s government said in a statement broadcast on state television late on Thursday.Niger will have to pay 2 percent interest on the loan, which must be paid back within 15 years, a government source said.China has committed to investing some $300 million in the project, which is at Azelik, in the northern Agadez region, where Areva has mining projects but the Niger government has also been battling a two-year uprising by Tuareg rebels.Niger already has two significant uranium mines providing 7.5 percent of global output from Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores, according to the World Nuclear Association website.Earlier this year, Areva said it had won a licence to operate the Imouraren mine, which would more than double Niger’s uranium output to make it the second largest producer in the world. ($1=6.826 Yuan) (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by James Jukwey)

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