Thousands protest against Areva in Niger

Thousands protest against Areva in Niger

Niamey (AFP) - Thousands of people in Niger protested Saturday against French nuclear firm Areva, which has been mining uranium in the impoverished country for nearly 50 years, one of the organisers said.

"The aim of the protest, which has gathered about 5,000 people, is to support the government in its upcoming discussions with Areva on the subject of our uranium," Azaoua Mamane told AFP.

Several other sources confirmed the turnout number.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini vowed Niger would review its dealings with the French firm "with a fine-tooth comb" amid accusations that the partnership was unbalanced.

Rafini specified that the west African country's contracts with Areva subsidiaries Somair and Cominak, which end this year, would be reviewed.

The protesters, a mix of local elected representatives and residents, marched on the streets of Arlit in northern Niger shouting anti-Areva slogans.

They accused the nuclear giant of "polluting" the environment, "provoking radioactivity" and "not showing interest in the concerns of local inhabitants", one protester said.

"The population has inherited 50 million tonnes of radioactive residues stocked in Arlit, and Areva continues to freely pump 20 million cubic metres of water each year while the population dies of thirst," he said.

Areva is the world's second-largest uranium producer and extracts more than a third of its uranium in Niger, which is among the world's top producers of uranium but also one of its poorest countries.