A fair uranium deal could lift millions of Niger’s people out of poverty

Niger’s uranium powers one in three light bulbs in France, but delivers little to the Nigerien people. A major uranium producer with a population of just 17 million, Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries. Some 90 percent of its people have no electricity at all.

Niger is clearly not getting a fair deal for the uranium it sells. For the first time in 10 years, however, Niger’s uranium contract with the French nuclear energy company AREVA is up for renewal.

 A fair deal could help lift millions out of poverty. But for that to happen, the secrecy surrounding contract renegotiations must end.

“How can we lift ourselves out of poverty when we get such a poor deal for our resources?” asks Ali Idrissa, coordinator of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition in Niger. The network that campaigns for transparency in Niger’s mining sector.

For years, PWYP activities were subject to arrests and intimidations for their work. With a new government since 2011, however, Niger has gradually improved its natural resource transparency. The current Minister of Justice, Marou Amadou, had been active in the PWYP coalition.

The coalition is determined that Niger should have a fair deal for its uranium.

In 2010, for example, two mines produced uranium worth more than €3.5 billion. But Niger received just €459 million, or 13% of this amount, according to a report by PWYP Niger and Oxfam France.

 AREVA received tax exemptions worth €320 million in 2012, the report says.

Already the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium, Niger will become the second largest when it begins extraction at its Imouraren mine. But 75% of its people live on less than $2 a day. The country ranked last of the 187 countries in the 2012 UN Human Development Index.

Although mining constituted 70.8% of Niger’s exports in 2010, it contributed only 5.8% of the country’s gross domestic product.

In its 2013 report, the Africa Progress Panel recommends that new agreements be subject to parliamentary debate and scrutiny. Governments should use auctions and competitive bidding to sell mining concessions and licences, EITI standards should be strengthened to bring full transparency to the whole extractive industry value chain, the 2013 Africa Progress Report says.

Photo credit: Greenpeace/Philip Reynaers

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