On Wednesday, workers at the Areva-owned Imouraren uranium mine project in northern Niger began a week-long strike. Imouraren (company website) is under construction, and is scheduled to begin production in 2014.
Workers’ grievances (French) concern their conditions; they complain of twelve-hour workdays and schedules that deprive them of sleep. Workers say the conditions at Imouraren are worse than at other Areva mines. Other issues include vacation policies.
During the strike, workers have traveled back to the cities or Agadez and Arlit, where their families live.
Reuters reported yesterday that the uranium workers’ union is threatening to expand the strike to encompass all Areva mines in northern Niger.
“If the strike continues at Imouraren, we will have to mobilise all workers of the mining companies. We’ll stop working until there is a solution for the Imouraren workers,” said Inoua Neino, Secretary General of the Syntramines union.
Niger produces about 4,000 tonnes of uranium per year from mines operated by Areva. China National Nuclear Corporation also has a uranium mining project in the country with output of 700 tonnes per year.
Labor issues like these have real importance for local and national politics. Uranium and, more recently, oil, have sometimes seemed to hold out to Niger a pathway out of poverty. But on the ground, relations between workers, multinational corporations, government, and local communities are often quite shaky, pointing to underlying issues about who, in the rush for such resources, gets what.