THIS IS ONE REASON WHY BOKO HARAM AND OTHER SUB SAHARAN TERRORIST WONT WILL GIVE UP ON THEIR ARMS STRUGGLE.
The Somair mine is one of two uranium sites in Arlit that are largely owned and operated by Areva, a majority state-owned French nuclear-services company.
As an integral part of the nuclear-energy infrastructure of a foreign power, the mine was an irresistible target for jihadists exploiting the security vacuum in nearby Mali.
Even a failed attack in Arlit, and on a facility that does not produce or handle enriched uranium, seemed guaranteed to evoke Western fears of nuclear terrorism, vulnerable energy supply chains, and collapsing order in a country less than 1,000 miles from the Mediterranean coast.
But perhaps the most significant aspect of the attack wasn’t Al Qaeda’s success in detonating a bomb at the gates of one of the world’s largest uranium mines. Nor was it the fact that the global jihadist network had credibly threatened a facility that handles radioactive materials while its operatives killed dozens of people several hours away.
The deadliness, sophistication, and ambition of the attacks belied their inevitably negligible upshot. The uranium mines kept right on operating.
This continuity could be evidence of the overwhelming imperatives of resource extraction in an impoverished country with virtually no other industrial base. It could show the commitment of the mines’ French operators to remaining in business in the country, a French colony until 1960.
It could also reflect the economic and strategic commitment of the French government – which has 3,000 of its troops stationed across five Sahelian countries, including Niger – amid fears over jihadist advances in Algeria, Libya, and Mali.
But above all, the fact that the mines were so unaffected by the attacks shows just how separated Niger’s uranium mining industry is from its broader context.
Niger’s uranium industry is ‘an island’
For decades, the uranium industry has been an island within one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, a place which ranks nearly last on the Human Development Index and which will see its population of 17 million explode to over 50 million by mid-century.
The benefits of one of Niger’s few existing heavy industries are largely sequestered away from a population that is badly in need of them.
“Today, 80% of Nigeriens don’t even know Niger has uranium, and 99% never get any benefits from it,” Almoustapha Alhacen, the founder of the Arlit-based uranium industry watchdog group Aghir In’Man, speculated to Business Insider during an interview in Agadez.
The uranium industry constitutes over one-third of Niger’s exports. In France “one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” according to a 2013 Oxfam publication. Niger has the world’s fifth-largest recoverable uranium reserves, some 7% of the global total. Niger’s two major uranium mines are the country’s second-largest employer, aside from the government.