Areva, the French nuclear company, has been mining and milling uranium in Niger for more than 40 years, with dire environmental and health consequences. Now the company has been awarded rights there to the second largest new uranium mine in the world while the Niger government has issued close to 140 additional uranium mine prospecting rights to corporations from across the globe. Indigenous peoples, in particular the nomadic Touareg, have found their livelihoods and lives severely impacted.



Suicide bomber strikes at French uranium mine in Niger

As a reminder once again that the possession of nuclear resources can trigger violence, a suicide bomber struck at the Areva-owned Arlit uranium mine in Niger on May 23rd, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others. The attack was perpetrated by an Al Qaeda jihadist simultaneously with an attack on a military base in Agadez, Niger. The attacker drove inside the Arlit complex in a vehicle loaded with 400 kilograms of explosives. The incident exposed once again the security vulnerabilities at the site, already the source of controversy given the extreme water depletion caused by the operation and the pervasive high level of radioactive contamination of air, water, soils and rocks. Niger is one of the biggest sources of uranium in the world. French industrial giant, Areva, an arm of the French government, also mines uranium in Canada and Kazakhstan. Niger is rated as one of the poorest countries in the world and the locals see little benefit from the exploitation of uranium which has also destroyed the pastoral traditions of the indigenous Tuareg peoples. (Pictured, a typical house of a uranium miner in Arlit.) The independent laboratory, CRIIRAD, has done extensive investigations and analysis in Niger.Read more.


"Left in the dust: AREVA’s radioactive legacy in the desert towns of Niger"

This May 2010 Greenpeace International report focuses on uranium mining impacts in Niger. In one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last in the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where more than 40% of children are underweight for their age, water and access to improved water sources is scarce and almost three quarters of the population are illiterate, the French nuclear giant AREVA extracts precious—and deadly—natural resources, earning billions for its Fortune 500 corporation, and leaving little behind but centuries of environmental pollution and health risks for the citizens of Niger. Beyond Nuclear colleague Bruno Chareyron  -- of the independent French radiological testing laboratory CRIIRAD -- contributed to this report. So did Rianne Tuele, Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Africa/International, currently based in Johannesburg, who spoke at an anti-uranium mining summit in Richmond, Virginia in early 2010.


Areva never instituted the promised health observatory in Niger

Given the serious health issues surrounding the two Areva-owned uranium mines in Niger, an agreement was finalised in 2009 providing for the setting up of a health and safety observatory: medical staff, appointed by a joint committee representing the company and civil society, would examine any former miners who requested a check-up. If an occupational complaint linked to radiation was diagnosed, Areva would pay for treatment., However, writes Herve Kempf in The Guardian, "A year later there is still no sign of the observatory." Furthermore, Kempf continued, in February Greenpeace and Criirad, the independent French laboratory that has monitored radioactive contamination at the mines and in the communities, published another report alleging that there were serious hotspots in the town itself."


Almoustapah Alhacen describes the tragedy of uranium mining in Niger

The German publication, Der Spiegel, has featured a strong three-part series on the impact of uranium mining upon the impoverished communities (see miner's house made of mine refuse, left) in Niger. Illnesses, radiation dispersed throughout the communities, and few benefits to the miners and their families are just part of the catastrophe. Almoustapha Alhacen, himself a mineworker at the Arlit sight run by the French nuclear giant, Areva, has fought these problems for close to a decade. Read the series (in English) and view the moving gallery of photos. Pictured is a Niger uranium mineworker's "home" in Arlit.


Tanjda power fueled by French uranium deals

The reform of Niger's constitution to allow president Mamadou Tandja to remain in power beyond his original mandate and even become president for life, was motivated by the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the West African country as a consequence of opaque foreign, especially French, investments in the local uranium mines. This is the view expressed by activists around the world, as reflected in an August 14, 2009 Press Service article.