Timeline Capsule
Time Capsule Details | BeingBlackToday.com
2010 . 03 . 13
China Nuclear Mining Company Causes Unrest in Niger
In 2009, the government leased the lands of the people of Azalik in Niger to China for uranium exploration. This deal left the people there without a livelihood

In 2009, without any offer of compensation, the government leased the lands of the people in a region of Niger, to China for uranium exploration. This deal left the Tuareg, the majority population there, without a livelihood or means for supporting themselves. Like their ancestors, they once eked out a living selling dried salts from an ancestral well.

President Mamadou Tandja, ousted in February 2010 by a military coup
Beginning in 2007, President Mamadou Tandja, awarded China and other foreign countries, several exploration and operating permits, for uranium, gold, silver, and oil in the desert of northern Niger.

The Tuareg rebels, who want local people to have greater control over resources, have claimed that despite billions of dollars pouring into the country, the Tandja administration and mining companies of have neglected development in the north.

In the past, the Tuareg rebel organization, Movement of Nigeriens for Justice (MNJ), fought against Niger troops and sabotaged Chinese mining operations.

In 2010, Nigerien workers – many Tuareg -- denounced in a written statement conditions at SOMINA, claiming it resembled “a Chinese colony."

Nigerien laborers sleep in dorms, separately from Chinese workers. The rooms are located in illegal proximity to open pit uranium mines, and the Nigeriens suffer chronic diarrhea on account of an unsanitary water supply, the document charged. Trouble at the mine has led Azalik to be referred to throughout northern Niger as “Guantanamo.”

Despite poor conditions, the mine offers a coveted chance to work. But further frustrating locals, SOMINA employs hundreds of Chinese nationals and recruits ethnically Hausa workers from the south despite widespread poverty and unemployment among the local Tuaregs.

What work is available for Tuaregs is hazardous and poorly paid, according to Ali Idrissa, president of the coalition of nongovernmental groups ROTAB, which recently completed a study on mining conditions in the north. Hard, manual labor like digging holes and transporting bricks under the glaring sun is reserved for Nigerien workers, while bureaucratic and engineering jobs are given to Chinese workers. A Nigerien engineer’s salary at the Chinese-run mine at Azalik is about $350 a month, compared with $2,000 a month at France’s Areva.

Chinese companies are "exploiting" the local Tuareg population in areas like Azelik, according to Mr. Idrissa. "Their land is expropriated and given to the Chinese in order to mine riches. And in return, [Tuareg workers'] jobs don't even provide the minimum they need to support their families," he says.

Meanwhile, Chinese mining executives refuse invitations from local elected officials to discuss improving conditions. "The [Chinese] company at Azalik does not even respect the region's local elected officials," Idrissa says. "They won't even receive them."

“They say they don’t have to answer to us because they have direct communication with the central government,” adds Mohamed Mamane Illo, a former Tuareg rebel and elected councilor of Ingall.

Mostly duplicated from: 
China mining company causes unrest in Niger, by Hannah Armstrong, March 29, 2010, The Christian Science Monitor, https://m.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2010/0329/China-mining-company-causes-unrest-in-Niger