BANGUI, Nov 3 (Reuters) - French nuclear group Areva has suspended its uranium mining project in the Central African Republic for two years, following a fall in uranium prices after the Fukushima disaster, an Areva official said on Thursday.
Exploitation of the Bakouma mine, initially scheduled for 2010, then postponed to 2011, is at present unprofitable for the company, Jean Francois Milian, director general of Areva resources in Central African Republic, told a news conference.
“We have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the uranium exploitation project at Bakouma and wait for the trauma of the Fukushima accident to ease within the next year or two years,” Milian said.
Since the Fukushima incident in March, which has hit nuclear projects around the world, uranium prices have fallen by about 30 percent. Areva has said is was reviewing its investments and may postpone some schemes.
About 100 people protested in front of Areva’s office in Bangui on Thursday, following a rumour that the company will shutdown the operation for 22 years.
Milian said was untrue that Areva was shutting the scheme until 2033.
“Areva is confident of the Bakouma project. The mine holds about 32,000 tonnes of uranium. We have already spent 70 billion CFA francs ($147 million), so we are not going abandon the project after spending that much money,” he said.
Milian said the company will maintain essential jobs at the mine, which employs about 180 people at the Bakouma site, adding that ore processing will continue during the suspension.
$1 = 475.297 CFA Francs Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Anthony Barker