* Uranium mine startup slowed by kidnappings, labour strife
* Niger says Areva must meet its commitments
* West African state poised to become No. 2 uranium exporter
NIAMEY, Oct 11 Niger warned French nuclear giant
Areva on Thursday against any further delays to its
Imouraren uranium mining project, saying it could not support a
company that is unable to meet its commitments.
The mine is meant to boost Niger's uranium output by 5,000
and make it the world's second-largest exporter of the nuclear
fuel, but the planned startup of production was delayed to 2013
or 2014 from 2012 after seven Areva workers were kidnapped in
Niger's north two years ago.
Construction work has also been hampered by labour disputes
that triggered strikes earlier this year.
"The deadline for finishing civil engineering on the site
must be strictly met," said Niger Mines Minister Omar Hamidou
Tchiana on state television after visiting the project on
"It is out of the question for Niger to endorse a company
that is unable to honour its commitments."
He did not specify what action Niger might take against
Areva if it failed to live up to the government's expectations.
Areva has been mining uranium in Niger for around four
decades and is the country's biggest single investor. It already
runs two producing uranium mines in Niger's desert.
Al Qaeda's north African wing, which operates in a broad
swath of the Sahara, claimed responsibility for the 2010
kidnappings of the Areva workers near the mining town of Arlit
and later released three of the hostages. The other four are
still being held.
An Areva spokesman in Niger declined to comment. The company
says on its website that Imouraren will start up in 2013, but
Niger officials have said the project is on track for 2014.
(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Editing by Richard
Valdmanis and Robin Pomeroy)