Areva and Kepco sign Imouraren agreement

05 February 2010

France's Areva and Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) have signed an agreement under which the South Korean company takes a stake in the Imouraren uranium mine under development in Niger.


The deal was originally announced in early December 2009. Under the agreement, signed on 4 February in Paris by Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and Kepco CEO Ssang-Soo Kim, Kepco will take an indirect 10% stake in the mine's operating company, Imouraren SA, which is jointly owned by Areva and the Nigerien state. In return, Kepco is entitled to take 10% of the mine's lifelong production to exclusively supply the 20 nuclear power reactors owned by its subsidiary Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), which require about 3100 tonnes per year.


KHNP's current nuclear fleet produces around 40% of South Korea's electricity, but six more large reactors currently under construction and another six planned to start operation before 2022 will take the share to over 55%.


The Imouraren mine is scheduled to begin producing uranium in 2013 and build up to an annual production rate of 5000 tonnes per year. The mine is expected to have an operating life of over 30 years. It will be the largest mining project ever undertaken in Niger. The deposit covers 8 km by 2.5 km and contains 146,000 tonnes of measured and indicated uranium resources at 0.11% U. Average depth is 110 m and maximum thickness 60 m. An earlier Imouraren joint venture agreement was signed in 1974 but development stalled on economic grounds.


In a statement, Areva said, "Kepco's involvement in this industrial project provides major support to the partners already developing the Imouraren mine."


Development of the large Imouraren deposit, about 80 km south of the existing Arlit mine, was confirmed in January 2008, after Areva agreed to increase royalty payments to the government by 50%, following a 2006 agreement.


In January 2009, Areva announced that it had been awarded a mining licence and that it would hold 66.65% of the project, with the Niger government holding the balance in a joint venture, Imouraren SA.


The Imouraren project will be a €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) investment, and Areva will also spend €6 million ($8 million) per year on health, education, training, transport and access to water and energy for local people.


In June 2009, KHNP agreed to take a 2.5% stake in the Georges Besse II (GB-II) enrichment plant in France under an agreement signed with Areva. Under the agreement, the South Korean utility will take a 2.5% stake in Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET), the operator of the future plant.


Areva said that it has also discussed with Kepco the possibility of extending their cooperation to cover uranium conversion and enrichment activities, as well as used fuel recycling.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News