China Safari – Uranium Mania in the Sahara. Chapter 3 Michel, Serge and Beuret, Michel. 2009. China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa. Nation Books. Major Players. Niger Government Niger Tribes & Movements Western Mining Concerns US Special Forces
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Michel, Serge and Beuret, Michel. 2009. China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa. Nation Books.
Areas where significant numbers of Tuaregs live
TIM MERSOI BASIN NIGER
Niger is currently the fourth largest uranium producer in the world and poised to become the largest.
Tim Mersoi Basin is one of the richest Uranium Deposits in the World
Historically the largest Uranium miner in Niger, also supplies much of the fuel for France’s Nuclear Reactors that supply 80% of the electricity in France
All that is harmful about Chinese investment
An economic boom is fueling China's fresh push for mining contracts in Africa. But Chinese state-owned companies’ efforts in Africa have been marred by strikes, substandard conditions, and, in some cases, fighting with locals.
Tuaregs are particularly irked with Chinese investments in uranium and oil. To Tuaregs, the $300 million SOMINA uranium mine at the desert outpost of Azalik, due to begin producing later this year, has come to represent all that is harmful about Chinese investment in Niger.
Last month Nigerien workers – many of whom are Tuareg – denounced in a written statement conditions at SOMINA, claiming it resembled “a Chinese colony." Nigerien laborers sleep in dorms, separately from Chinese workers. The rooms are located in illegal proximity to open pit uranium mines, and the Nigeriens suffer chronic diarrhea on account of an unsanitary water supply, the document charged. Trouble at the mine has led Azalik to be referred to throughout northern Niger as “Guantanamo.”
Tension with the French company and the government were longstanding. The government of Niger had concluded a deal with a Chinese state owned company China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (SinoU) to begin mining at Teguida, in the midst of the Tuareg winter pasturing lands and the fall Cure Salee festival at Ingall. The government expected a greater share of the proceeds of these new mines than it has received from the Arlit operations dominated by the former colonial power. More than a dozen prospecting contracts have been offered to companies from Canada and Europe as well, and there are also worries amongst the French that the Arlit mines, nearing the end of their useful life, must soon be replaced by new concessions. Areva has begun work on a new mine outside Arlit, but even prior to this conflict, it was not expected to be operational for a number of years.
On 6 July 2007an official from Sino-U was kidnapped by the rebels, but later released, and all work at Teguida stopped. Throughout July, the Niger government and Areva came into direct conflict, each accusing the other of supporting the rebels. The French state broadcaster RFI was ejected from the country for a month on 19 July 2007, and in short succession both Pin and Denamur were ordered to leave Niger. On 1 August, the Niamey government announced it would end all contracts with Areva, and bring in the Chinese to manage the existing operations. High level French diplomats flew to Niger and brokered a climb down, in which the Areva contracts would be extended in exchange for greater French aid to Niamey. The French paper Le Monde expressed doubts about this deal, calling it "Expensive uranium."