Niger, Areva, China, Imouraren, and SDS

I’ve been following the launch of the Nigerien government’s $2.5 billion, five-year “Strategy for Development and Security” (SDS). As part of that story I’ve been wondering how the program, which partly aims to address political and economic grievances in the northern part of Niger, will interact with private firms that work in resource extraction, namely in uranium mining and oil drilling. On the one hand, the funding sources for SDS remain partly unclear, and the government may hope to use revenues from resource extraction to fund the program. On the other hand, some firms have themselves been the targets of popular anger and protests, meaning SDS’ administrators could face choices about whether to push for reforms or find alternative ways to reduce anger.

One part of the story that I originally missed is that the Nigerien government has begun voicing some dissatisfaction with French-owned uranium mining giant Areva. Reuters:

Niger warned French nuclear giant Areva on [October 11] against any further delays to its Imouraren uranium mining project, saying it could not support a company that is unable to meet its commitments.

The mine is meant to boost Niger’s uranium output by 5,000 and make it the world’s second-largest exporter of the nuclear fuel, but the planned startup of production was delayed to 2013 or 2014 from 2012 after seven Areva workers were kidnapped in Niger’s north two years ago.

Construction work has also been hampered by labour disputes that triggered strikes earlier this year.

[…]

[Mines Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana] did not specify what action Niger might take against Areva if it failed to live up to the government’s expectations.

Areva’s official webpage for Imouraren is here, and a map of its location is here.

Much is at stake. Al Qarra (French) wrote yesterday,

Last week, rumors mentioned the resale of Areva’s stake to a Chinese enterprise, behind the back of Nigerien authorities. Despite the French firm’s denial, the Nigerien government seized this opportunity to denounce the firm’s practices. In the authorities’ sights: the economic benefits of the Imouraren site. The government desires more of the benefits for the population, at the same time that it demands that production begins earlier.

The rumors about a sale to a Chinese firm are apparently true. China Daily reported on October 26 that Areva, which currently has a 57% stake in Imouraren (with the Nigerien government holding a 43% stake), is “expected to reach agreement soon on the sale of a 13 percent stake in [Imouraren] to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd.”

We will see whether the sale goes through, and whether the Nigerien government is able to pressure its fellow stakeholders into opening the mine sooner and re-configuring how its profits are shared out. And then we will see what consequences all of this has for SDS and for political stability in the north. In any case the struggles surrounding Imouraren are a reminder of the complicated intersections between resource extraction and politics in Niger.

About these ads

3 thoughts on “Niger, Areva, China, Imouraren, and SDS

  1. I have two points:

    1- The debate that he is reporting here about the delay of the project Imouraren and the selling of Areva’s share to China is relatively an old one. It happened a year ago although it still has some ramifications on the currently enfolding debate. The new debate that brought back this lately tumultuous relationship between Areva and the Nigerien government is the revenue that the government earned for the uranium. The Nigerien government argues that the revenue of Uranium contributes 5% only to the national budget and they find this unacceptable. It seems to me that they are trying to push Areva to open new negotiations on the distributions of the revenue and also to press them to comply with the deadline of 2014 to start the Imouraren project in late . Areva has already denied the allegations about selling its share to the Chinese.

    2- I don’t think that the government is planing to spend The $2.5 billion for the SDS (The Strategy of Development and Security) on the basis of its internal resources. That would be unrealistic. I suspect that the government is expecting to get money from external donors who are worry about the expansion of insecurity in the region. I am sure you will see them in the coming days presenting it to a “table ronde” in Brussels and Jidda.

    Wish you safe trip,

    IB

    • Thanks for weighing in Ibrahim. What do you think will happen between the government and Areva? And do you think the rumors about a sale to China are true?

      You may well be right about the government’s intentions to get the money for SDS from external donors, though I think Reuters did say at one point that the government may foot even half of the bill itself. I will look out for a table ronde in Brussels of Jeddah.

  2. Pingback: Niger Secures $4.8 Billion for Security and Development – Is This a Regional Model? | Sahel Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s