Last update:
2016-11-10

Chinese Azelik uranium mine in Ingall, Niger

Chinese uranium mine invaded Niger’s traditional pastoral territory. China's CNNC, through its local subsidiary Sino-Uranium, hoped to be able to break Areva's monopoly and exploit a new uranium deposit.


Description:

In 2007, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), through its local subsidiary Sino-Uranium invested USD 334.7 million to be able to exploit Niger’s uranium deposits (WNA). Like mining companies from Canada, Korea, and other countries, China received one of the 150 contracts that were offered to bidders by the Nigerien government in 2007, an action that broke a near 40-year monopoly held by the French company Areva (Afane). The Société des Mines d’Azelik SA (SOMINA) began production in 2010 in the area of Azelik/Teguidda, located 160 km southwest of Areva’s mining town Arlit and 150 km northwest of the regional capital Agadez.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Chinese Azelik uranium mine in Ingall, Niger
Country:Niger
State or province:Department of Tchirozérine, Region of Agadez
Location of conflict:Ingall and Tegguida n’Tessoumt
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Other
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium
Water
Salt
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Trial operation began at Azelik on 10 December 2010, with the first barrel of yellowcake being produced on 30 December. The mine is the first of CNNC's overseas interests to enter production, under the control of its subsidiary China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (SinoU). Testing will continue at Azelik with a view to reaching full capacity (700 tU/year). SinoU has previously said that it hopes to raise production at Azelik, which has reported resources of 13,000 tU at 0.2%, to 2500 t/yr by 2015 and double that by 2020.

Level of Investment:334,700,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:11/02/2010
Company names or state enterprises:China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (Sino-Uranium) from China - 37.2% Shareholder
Société de Patrimoine des Mines du Niger (SOPAMIN ) from Niger - 33% shareholder
ZXJOY Invest (ZXJOY) from China - 24.8% shareholder
Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) from Republic of Korea
Relevant government actors:President of the Republic of Niger
Société de Patrimoine des Mines du Niger
Niger's National Centre for Radiation Protection (CNRP)
Regional Council of Agadez
Traditional chiefs of Agadez region
Mayor of Ingall
Traditional chiefs of Ingall
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (condemned the opaqueness surrounding Nigerien mining contracts and demanded their "full publication in the official gazette and the elimination of confidentiality clauses”)
Office Public Vivrier du Niger (OPVN) de Teggida n’Tessoumt
Collectif Tchinaghen (http://dossier.tchinaghen.free.fr/)
CRIIRAD (Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radioactivity − criirad.org)
Mahamadou Djibo Samaila, secretary general of the Union of Niamey University Students
Groupe de Réflexion et d'Actions sur les Industries Extractives (GREN)
Le Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l'Analyse Budgétaire or ROTAB (Network of Organizations for Transparency and Budget Analysis − rotabniger.org)
Collective Organisations for the Defence of the Right to Energy’ (CODDAE)
Aghir N’Man (aghirinman.blogspot.fr, http://uranium-niger.jimdo.com
Groupement des Organisations de la Société Civile de la Région d’Agadez (GOSCRAZ)
Niger Movement for Justice, a largely Tuareg-armed militia.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Strikes
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Deaths
Other Health impactsWorkers' sanitary conditions
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsTuareg rebels accuse deposed president Tandja's administration and mining companies of neglecting development in the North, which is a Tuareg stronghold. Nigerien workers – many of whom are 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 (Armstrong 2010).
Since the end of the 2007 rebellion, a period of gradual militarisation of the Agadez region has begun. The fall of the Libyan regime (2011), the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali, and increasing terrorist attacks on mining operations (MUJAO in 2014) has accelerated the build-up of military personnel in the Sahel, including US-led drone bases. The French have positioned 3,000 military personnel across Mali, Niger, and Chad to secure the region. Despite the very real threat of Boko Haram in southern Niger and Chad, the majority of military operations are concentrated in the north, near the mining operations.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Operations at the Somina mine were temporarily suspended on February 17, 2015 due to tight cash flow resulting from a diversity of constraints. The first of these is the military coup d’etât in 2010, which brought about new political conditions in the country that have not been favourable to granting the Chinese subsidiary a Nigerien government loan. Secondly, Fukushima and the response of Germany’s government to phase out nuclear power has resulted in lower levels for uranium. Thirdly, and most relevant to the community-led movements in and around Azelik, the production process has encountered difficulties (CNNC). After only five years of operation, the mine is currently ‘on care’ due to the recent suspension of actvitity, much of which is related to fiscal management and production rates. Thus, there is still a great need to increase protections in light of mining activities. Actions that could be requested prior to the mine’s reopening:
Construction, containment, and protection from livestock for contaminated water sources
New dormitory facilities with hygienic conditions for workers
Reevaluation of protective equipment and standardisation for labor practices for workers
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

CNNC International Limited: Interim Results Announcement For The Six Months Ended 30th June, 2014, Aug. 26, 2014.

Afane, K. and Gagnol, L. Convoitises et conflits entre ressources pastorales et extractives au Nord-Niger: Verts pâturages et yellow cake chez les « hommes bleus ». Afrique contemporaine, 2014/1 n° 249, p. 53-68. DOI : 10.3917/afco.249.0053.

Collectif Tchinaghen (http://dossier.tchinaghen.free.fr/)- Paix et Solidarité au Nord-Niger. Accessed online:
[click to view]

Sahelian. 2016. Niger : Plus de 100 sinistrés après des inondations à Ingall dans la région d’Agadez. Accessed online 3 Aug 2016:
[click to view]

New Uranium Mining Projects - Niger. Accessed online: Aug 18 2016:
[click to view]

Green, J. 2013. Uranium Mining in Niger. WISE Nuclear Monitor Issue: #76501/08/2013, Accessed online on Aug 4 2016:
[click to view]

Technical Report by SRK Consulting (China) Limited, 2010 (5.4MB PDF - see pp. 42 - 199) external link (CNNC Intl.)

BBC. 2014. Niger: des centaines des animaux contaminés. Accessed online Aug 3 2016:
[click to view]

Armstrong, H. 2010. China Mining Company Causes Unrest in Niger. Christian Science Monitor. Accessed online 4 Aug 2016:
[click to view]

World Nuclear Association (WNA). 2016. Uranium in Niger. Accessed online on Aug 3 2016:
[click to view]

Financial Times, March 20, 2013, Workers strike at Chinese mine in Niger. (Reuters).
[click to view]

One uranium mine in Niger says a lot about China's huge nuclear-power ambitions, by Armin Rosen. Business Insider, 24 Oct 2015.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

La malédiction de l'uranium, Le Nord-Niger victime de ses richesses
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Julie Snorek, PhD Researcher, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)
Last update18/08/2019
Comments
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