“………..the bigger issue should be that uranium mining is just a very dirty business that we didn’t clean up but source out. France used to have 200+ uranium mines but thanks to better care for environment and workers the last one closed in 2001. Instead, new ones were opened in places like Niger, Namibia and Malawi. In short: places where we can shift the real costs from uranium mining to the people and environment. As a matter of fact, CEOs in the business are quite frank about that. The former CEO of Paladin, John Borshoff, an Australian uranium producer who opened mines in Namibia, said that Canadian and Australian environmental norms are “over-sophisticated“. What he actually means is that in African countries you don’t need to pay much or anything at all to “protect” either your workers or the people living in the vicinity from dying from cancer due to exposure to uranium.
He’s just implementing the Lawrence Summers Principle. This ‘principle’ originates from a 1991 memo written or dictated by Summers whilst he was the World Bank’s chief economist. In this memo, he promoted dumping toxic waste in the Third World for economic reasons: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]? […] A given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”
The uranium sector squared up to that. But for how much longer will it get away with that?
Last time rebels in Mali came too close to the AREVA mines in Niger for comfort, France suddenly sent in their army. Under some humanitarian pretext. And if rebels don’t succeed in capturing these remote mines, the global environmental justice movement might just succeed in closing a couple of them down.
The legacy from uranium mining
Being part of that movement, I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of making a toxic tour around a now closed uranium mine in Bulgaria. Massive amounts of toxic sludge were stored behind a weak dam that showed signs of distress after heavy rains caused a spill in 2009. Old EU money was still keeping the dam up but as we’re talking about radioactive waste, money will need to keep flowing to dam repairs for millennia to come.
Since 1992, when the mines closed, and for time immemorial, that will be public money. And that’s how it goes with uranium mines in places with weak or no legislation: short-term private profits followed by perpetual public losses. In Bulgaria the people are still lucky enough to be in the EU with at least some environmental regulations and EU money for environmental protections. The same goes for other EU countries like France, which has dozens of zombie mines: dead but still active. The US also has plenty more zombie mines. The lands of the Navajo Nation include over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Despite the fact that they stopped operating in 1986, new and related lung cancers, bone cancers and impaired kidney functions keep appearing.
But while EU and US now have enough safeguards to keep their own uranium safe under the ground, there’s nothing of that in Namibia or Niger. These two countries are rising players on the uranium market, both exporting their uranium to the EU. Niger has now produced more uranium than France ever did in it’s whole history. It’s here that UK-Australian and French companies are doing the dirty digging that destroys local environment and populace.
Three reports from the EU-funded EJOLT project deal with the environmental and social issues related to uranium mining. One deals with the impacts, one concentrates on a mine in Malawi and the third dwells on the examples of successful resistance to big mining in general.
Bruno Chareyron, a French nuclear engineer who authored most of these reports, has been carrying out toxic tours along uranium mines for the last two decades. That’s not always an easy job, with for example the police confiscating most of your measuring equipment upon arrival in Niger. Nevertheless, Bruno was able to measure that radioactive scrap metal from the mines and mills is sold on the market. Waste rocks from the mines were used to pave roads, build homes and even at the local hospital where the radiation was 100 times above normal. Piles of radioactive waste were left in open air, unprotected, next to two cities with a total population of 120.000.
The missing piece of the puzzle
Where is uranium in the whole debate about nuclear energy? It’s usually only mentioned when the industry says: uranium is only a tiny part of the total cost of our energy model, unlike the situation in the gas and oil industry.
Well, there’s a reason why it’s only a tiny part of the total cost and it’s called cost shifting.
Ecological economists have given names to processes witnessed in the uranium sector:accumulation by contamination, ecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt. More and more, people all over the world are coming together to resist against environmental justice.
Our EU and US based nuclear power is currently coming at the cost of poisoning people in Africa. But it begs the question: are we ready to face that reality?
Nick Meynen is one of The Ecologist New Voices contributors. He writes blogs and bookshttp://www.epo.be/uitgeverij/boekinfo_auteur.php?isbn=9789064455803 on topics like environmental justice, globalization and human-nature relationships.
When not wandering in the activist universe or his Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/nick.meynen
is dead, he’s probably walking in nature.
EUROPE TARGETS WORLD’S MAJOR URANIUM PRODUCER NIGER. In Depth News,
“……….According to Wikipedia, Niger has been a uranium exporter since the 1960s and has had substantial export earnings and rapid economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s. The persistent uranium price slump brought lower revenues for Niger’s uranium sector, although it still provides 72% of national export proceeds.
When the uranium-led boom ended in the early 1980s the economy stagnated, and new investment since then has been limited. Niger’s two uranium mines – SOMAIR’s open pit mine and COMINAK’s underground mine – are owned by a French-led consortium and operated by French company Areva.
As of 2007, many licences have been sold to other companies from countries such as India, China, Canada and Australia in order to exploit new deposits. In 2013, the government of Niger sought to increase its uranium revenue by subjecting the two mining companies to a 2006 Mining Law.
The government argued that the application of the new law will balance an otherwise unfavourable partnership between the government and Areva. The company resisted the application of the new law that it feared would jeopardize the financial health of the companies, citing declining market uranium prices and unfavourable market conditions.
In 2014, following nearly a year long negotiation with the government of Niger, Areva agreed to the application of 2006 Mining Law of Niger, which would increase the government’s uranium revenues from 5 to 12 percent. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 September 2015]…….http://www.indepthnews.info/index.php/global-issues/2437-europe-targets-worlds-major-uranium-producer-niger
Uranium games in Niger and the US-Franco competition Andrew Korybko for RT June 11, 2014 The West has actively been making multidimensional inroads into Africa over the past decade, largely of a malignant nature. The US and its NATO allies are interested in market potential, energy prospects, and military engagement…….
Altogether, the US and France are closely cooperating in the NATO militarization of Africa during the “Second Scramble”. Despite being somewhat different in their approaches, they represent “two hands from the same magician” working behind the scenes to advance the Western interest there. Concurrently, as can be seen by the NSA spying directed against European “allies”, Washington does not place full trust in those that it cooperates with. Therefore, it is fully in line with America’s established track record of deceit to hedge itself towards a position of guiding influence over its partners, specifically France. In the event that Paris’ ambitions for power get the best of it and it once more “goes rogue” from Atlantic command, the US will play the Nigerien uranium card to enact maximum pressure on the country and force it back into the unipolar fold. http://rt.com/op-edge/165092-west-africa-uranium-games/
Niger, Areva in hard-won uranium deal, Yahoo 7 Finance, 26 May 14—The government of Niger and French nuclear energy group Areva announced on Monday that they had signed a deal to renew a decades-old agreement for the operation of two uranium mines.
Under the deal, negotiated for 18 months, Areva agreed that a 2006 mining law sharply increasing taxes on mineral extracted would apply to the Somair and Cominak operations in the north of the country which it partially controls.
“We have heard the government’s legitimate call for higher receipts coming from uranium,” said Luc Oursel, Areva CEO, on a visit to Niamey to sign the deal.
However, a joint statement said that the operations would be exempt from sales tax over the course of the five-year deal.
The revenue issue had been the main sticking point in the talks since the government considered that the previous contracts, which expired at the end of last year, were unfavourable to the country, the fourth-biggest producer of uranium in the world.
The French arm of charity Oxfam, which has been a sharp critic of state-controlled Areva’s uranium dealings with Niger, said the new deal continued to shortchange Nigeriens, who stood to lose “10 to 15 million euros a year.” ($13.6 to $20.5 million)……. https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/niger-areva-hard-won-uranium-085912953.html
Areva signs uranium deal with Niger, delays new mine May 27, 2014 By Abdoulaye Massalaki NIAMEY (Reuters) – French nuclear group Areva agreed to a reduction in tax breaks and a rise in royalty rates at its uranium mines in Niger on Monday but said the start of production at its giant new Imouraren mine would be delayed until prices improve……https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/23870138/areva-signs-uranium-deal-with-niger-delays-new-mine/
Niger fails to reach uranium mining deal with French nuclear firm Areva Deadlock over royalties as Oxfam points out Areva’s global turnover is more than four times Niger’s entire annual budget Guardian Celeste Hicks in Niamey, 28 Feb 14, Another deadline has passed without agreement in Niger in the government’s ongoing negotiations with the French nuclear company Areva on the renewal of the company’s license to operate in the country.
After months of discussions, the mining minister, Omar Tchiana, said last week that Friday would be the final deadline for the two sides to strike a deal. Now it has been agreed that talks will continue without a fixed deadline.
The negotiations are deadlocked on the issue of the royalties Areva pays Niger for the rights to two large uranium mines, Somair and Cominak in the arid north of the country. The terms of the original deal struck in the early 1970s have never been made public, but government sources say the company pays about 5.5% of its revenues in royalties. Niger wants the terms of a new mining code passed in 2006 to be implemented, which would force Areva to pay between 12% and 15% in royalties, and end a number of tax breaks on materials and equipment.
“Niger has not benefited at all from uranium production for 40 years. These contracts need to be win-win for Niger and not just for the benefit of France and Areva” said Ali Idrissa, the executive co-ordinator of the civil society group Rotab. The issue is of huge significance to the country, which ranks bottom of the UN’s human development index. According to Oxfam, Areva’s annual turnover of €9bn ($12.4bn) is more than four times Niger’s entire annual budget of €2bn…….
the current negotiations between Areva and the government are still less than transparent, and steps towards establishing a FGF and prioritising its spending have not been implemented…….
It is likely that Niger will be able to leverage a better deal from Areva, despite the company’s claims that a higher royalty rate could make the operation prohibitively unprofitable……http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/28/niger-fails-uranium-mining-deal-french-firm-areva
World’s Poorest Suffer From Radioactive Sickness as Areva Mines for Uranium http://ecowatch.com/2014/01/24/worlds-poorest-radioactive-areva-uranium/Brandon Baker | January 24, 2014 More than 60 percent of Niger’s population lives on less than $1 per day, and even more have no electricity.
Still, French company Areva keeps contaminating those residents and their environment while mining away for uranium—one of the few resources the world’s poorest country still has. Continue reading
Niger uranium mining dispute a test case for use of African natural resources by Mark Tran Friday 10 January 2014 theguardian.com The wrangle between Niger and a state-owned French firm over payments for uranium extraction has wider ramifications
The protracted negotiations on uranium mining between Niger andAreva, the French energy multinational, are not just a trial of strength between an African government and a big company. The face-off will also test whether there is more than just pious sentiment to the notion that African countries should derive greater benefit from their natural resources.
Areva, which owns stakes in the Somair and Cominak mines, has been negotiating with Niger over new uranium mining contracts for two years. The mines’ 10-year licences expired on 31 December without a new agreement, although Niger issued a decree on 27 December providing a legal framework under the 2006 mining law for operations to continue.
The company is tight-lipped on discussions……..
The mines have been closed since mid-December for what Areva describes as routine maintenance. Some see the move as hardball tactics by the company to put pressure on the Nigerien government.
At heart of the matter is the country’s desire for a better deal. Niger accounts for more than a third of Areva’s uranium production, and President Mahamadou Issoufou’s government wants to increase the royalties the company pays from 5.5% of revenues to 12%, officials told Reuters…….
Niger is desperately poor, ranking last of the 187 countries in the 2012 UN Human Development Index. Three-quarters of its people live on less than $2 a day and malnutrition is rife, with the country beset by droughts. Although mining made up 70.8% of Niger’s exports in 2010, it contributed only 5.8% of the country’s gross domestic product.
According to a report from Oxfam France and the Niger arm of Publish What You Pay, the transparency group, Areva’s two mines produced uranium worth more than €3.5bn (£2.9bn) in 2010, but Niger received just €459m, or 13% of this amount. In 2012 Areva received tax exemptions worth €320m, the report says….http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/jan/10/niger-uranium-mining-dispute-african-natural-resource
Niger says seeks better uranium terms from French Areva au news 6 Dec 13Paris (AFP) – Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said in Paris on Friday that his country wanted to renew its uranium mining agreement with French nuclear giant Areva, but on more equitable terms….. Areva’s contract to extract uranium in the west African country expires on December 31, after more than four decades of mining at two sites on the southern edge of the Sahara, with a third under development………http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/world/a/20197961/niger-says-seeks-better-uranium-terms-from-french-areva/
5,000 march against French uranium miner in Niger http://www.mining.com/5000-march-against-french-uranium-miner-in-niger-17954/Frik Els | October 12, 2013 Thousand of protestors marched against French uranium miner Areva (EPA:AREVA) in the remote town of Arlit in Niger on Saturday.
Areva has been operating in Niger for more than 50 years with two sites, Somair and Cominak, currently producing, and its long-term deal with the government of Niger is up for renegotiation at the end of 2013.
“We’re showing Areva that we are fed up and we’re demonstrating our support for the government in the contract renewal negotiations,” Azaoua Mamane, an Arlit civil society spokesman, said in an interview with a private radio station.
“We don’t have enough drinking water while the company pumps 20 million cubic meters of water each year for free. The government must negotiate a win-win partnership,” Mamane said.
The two mines together produce 4,500 tonnes of uranium for export to France and another project at Imouraren, which will be the largest uranium mine in Africa, is set to start operations in 2015.The Somair mine was back to full production in August, after a suicide attack in May killed one worker and injured 14 partially shutting down mining.
Prices for uranium are languishing at 8-year lows of $34 a pound and have not recovered since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011
Niger’s Hedges Bets on French Uranium Assets Oil Price.com. By Editorial Dept | Fri, 04 October 2013 Bottom Line: Under constant threat of terrorist attacks in the security nightmare of Niger, French nuclear group Areva will now face an audit of its uranium mines as the Nigerien government seeks a better deal.
Analysis: Areva has two mines in Niger: Somair and Cominak. Together these two facilities produce about one-third of France’s nuclear power. But the 10-year contract for these mines ends this year, and the government of Niger is planning to take advantage of that by auditing the company and determining how it can get a better deal. The plan will be to increase tax revenues from Areva and to force it into more significant investments in infrastructure. Areva was operating at a loss last year, but is eyeing over 1.1 billion euros in operating profits for this year—and Niger is hoping to get a bigger chunk of this through taxes and infrastructure deals. The government of Niger already owns a 36.4% stake in Somair and a 31% stake in Cominak. Areva will now be audited first based on claims from some groups that it is not transparently reporting its revenues and operating costs. A third mine that is under construction—Areva’s Imouraren uranium mine—is also under scrutiny. The government of Niger has warned that the company will face fines if there are any further delays to the opening of this mine, now slated for 2015.
Recommendation: This could all play into the security question due to the level of government corruption in Niger,…(furher reading -subscription only) http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Nigers-Hedges-Bets-on-French-Uranium-Assets.html
Niger audits Areva uranium mines, seeking better deal By Daniel Flynn and Abdoulaye Massalatchi NIAMEY | Fri Sep 20, 2013 (Reuters) – Niger has ordered an audit of French nuclear group Areva’s (AREVA.PA) uranium mines in the West African country as it presses for a better deal in talks over a new long-term contract, Mining Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana told Reuters.
Areva’s two mines in Niger – Somair and Cominak – produce the fuel for roughly one-third of France’s nuclear power, providing some of the cheapest electricity in the West.
Niger, a former French colony and one of the world’s poorest countries, has long complained it does not reap enough benefits from these resources……..
Extractive industries watchdogs, including the local branch of Publish What You Pay, have accused Areva of a lack of transparency in its revenues and costs in Niger…….
Previous Niger governments have struggled to substantially increase the state’s take from uranium and details of the 2003 mining contract have been kept confidential. The IMF estimates Niger’s gross domestic product at around 5.5 billion euros, only just over half of Areva’s revenues of 9.3 billion in 2012……..http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/20/us-niger-areva-idUSBRE98J0MY20130920
Uranium is France’s major strategic economic interest in the Sahel,
How long before the bombings hit Paris?
Niger’s Uranium Facilities Under Assault Oil Price, By John Daly, 03 June 2013 One of the scariest scenarios for Western intelligence analysts is the possible nexus between terrorism and nuclear materials Recent events in Africa have heightened these scenarios. Continue reading
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