Desert war helps to secure French energy supplies – Uranium deposits in Niger are in danger

Military intervention in Mali: France denies own interests

The French military intervention in Mali is not about fighting terrorism alone, but also meant to secure energy supplies with cheap uranium from Niger, Mail's neighboring country. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen pointed this out this context after the French president Francois Hollande had given a statement on Saturday night, assuring that his country has no own interests for an intervention in Mali. "However, the growing influence of radical Islamists is not only endangering the human rights situation – it is also a threat to secure uranium supplies for France," said the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius. "By kidnapping French mining engineers, the Islamists could already demonstrate that they are able to operate freely in the north of Niger." Radical Islamists in northern Mali are still keeping four French engineers as hostages. They were kidnapped in the mining town of Arlit (Niger) on September 16, 2010.

"France does not only want to avert a radical Islamic theocracy in Mali. There are also other interests regarding strategic issues and safe economics," said Delius. "France has repeatedly and skillfully managed to force European partners into solidarity to help serve French interests."

About a third of the 58 nuclear power plants in France are being operated with uranium from Niger – and nuclear power secures 78 percent of the power supply in France. Niger is the world's fourth largest producer of uranium. 4,075 tons of the 4,351 tons of Uranium that were produced in Niger in 2011 originate from one of the two companies Somaïr or Cominak, of which the French state-owned company Areva is the majority shareholder. Apart from the existing mines in the Tuareg regions in the north of the country, AREVA is also planning to open another new uranium mine near Imouraren in about two years. AREVA will invest at least 1.2 billion Euros in the new project, which is supposed to raise Niger's yearly uranium production by 5000 tons. AREVA has been involved in commercial uranium mining in northern Niger since 1971. The company is the largest foreign investor in the country.

Tuareg who live in the mining region have criticized the severe environmental consequences of uranium mining for years, also complaining that their region does not benefit enough from the extraction of natural resources. Radioactive mining waste is a serious threat to the health of many Tuareg.