(Adds further detail, background)
PARIS Jan 14 French state-controlled nuclear reactor maker Areva CEPFi.PA said it had renewed a uranium mining deal with the state of Niger and would invest over 1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) at the country's Imouraren site.
In a statement dated Jan. 13, Areva said its chief executive Anne Lauvergeon had signed the deal with Niger President Tandja.
"This agreement consolidates Areva's position as a reference player in the mining of uranium in Niger and meets the country's legitimate aspirations," Areva said in a statement.
"It lays down the terms and conditions for buying uranium produced by the Cominak and Somair mines for the next two years and provides for a price increase of around 50 percent in order to reflect the recent rise of long-term prices," it added.
Areva added that it had received government agreement to launch mining at the Imouraren deposit and to extend its exploration scope, thereby confirming its role as a mine operator in Niger for the coming decades.
Areva said Imouraren would be the biggest industrial mining project ever under consideration in Niger. The French group said the site would be the second-biggest of its kind in the world, with almost 5,000 tons of uranium produced annually.
It will also lead to the creation of 1,400 permanent jobs.
Earlier this month, Niger's Energy and Mines Minister Mamadou Abdulahi said the country would award 100 mining exploration permits over the next two years and at least seven oil exploration licences in 2008 as it seeks more overseas investment.
For some 40 years, Areva has enjoyed a monopoly on production of uranium in the former colony, one of the world's largest producers.
In recent years, President Tandja's government has issued a slew of new exploration licences, notably to Chinese and Indian corporations, in an effort to diversify the sector. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Holmes)