NIAMEY, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Niger has awarded a permit to GoviEx Niger Holdings Ltd., the Niger branch of GoviEx, to exploit uranium for investments worth $676 million at the 243-km Madaouela Project in the Agadez region, according to a government statement.
The landlocked West African country is a major uranium producer and the ore is central to France's nuclear energy program.
Niamey also granted four permits for uranium exploration to GoviEx Niger Holding Ltd. and two other companies, said the statement, which is read on public television.
French state-owned nuclear company Areva also operates in the central Nigerien region. The relationship has been fraught; in April its workers launched a strike before a court declared it to be illegal.
Niger is one of the world's poorest countries and is ranked 188 of 188 in the U.N. Human Development Index. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Makini Brice)