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NGO urges compensation for Areva's Niger staff

By AFP

NIAMEY (AFP) - Niger employees of Areva must benefit from the same compensation as their French colleagues, a Niger non-governmental organisation said Friday after a court near Paris said the French state-owned nuclear firm was liable.

The court at Melun ordered 200,000 euros ($260,000) in damages to be paid by France's state health fund to the widow of an employee of the Areva subsidiary Cominak, a Niger company which runs an Areva uranium mine at Akokan.

The deceased, Serge Venel, died of lung cancer in July 2009 at the age of 59 and worked for Cominak between 1978 and 1985.

"200,000 euros is a ridiculous sum for somebody who gave his life for this company," Ali Idrissa of the Rotab non-government organisation told AFP.

"We think that such compensation should be paid to all Areva employees including non-French nationals, and notably those people from Niger who are slowly dying because of (nuclear) radiation," he added.

Idrissa is a member of the Initiative for Transparency in the Extractive Industries (Itie) which groups NGOs, mining companies and the Niger government.

"We have for years formally established with Greenpeace that the water and the environment in uranium-producing areas are contaminated," he added.

Areva said it did "not understand" Friday's ruling as there was no proof between Venel's illness and his work at Cominak, and may appeal.

The French nuclear energy giant has operated in the world's sixth biggest uranium producer for 40 years and exploits two mines about 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) north of the capital Niamey, at Arlit and Akokan.

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