|2/23/2016 by mdc|
|Armin Rosen reports that in May 2013, a car bomb detonated near the Somair uranium mine in Arlit, in northern Niger, killing one person. Moments earlier, in Agadez, some 150 miles south, Al Qaeda-affiliated militants waged an assault on Nigerien army positions that killed over 20 people. That same year, the two uranium mines produced 4,238 tons of uranium, down from 4,572 the year before, but up from 4,159 tons in 2011. The mines did not miss their production targets. Extraction continued as if the bombing had barely even happened.|
The Somair mine is one of two uranium sites in Arlit that are largely owned and operated by Areva, a majority state-owned French nuclear-services company. As an integral part of the nuclear-energy infrastructure of a foreign power, the mine was an irresistible target for jihadists exploiting the security vacuum in nearby Mali.
Even a failed attack in Arlit, and on a facility that does not produce or handle enriched uranium, seemed guaranteed to evoke Western fears of nuclear terrorism, vulnerable energy supply chains, and collapsing order in a country less than 1,000 miles from the Mediterranean coast. But perhaps the most significant aspect of the attack was not Al Qaeda success in detonating a bomb at the gates of one of the largest uranium mines in the world. Nor was it the fact that the global jihadist network had credibly threatened a facility that handles radioactive materials while its operatives killed dozens of people several hours away. The deadliness, sophistication, and ambition of the attacks belied their inevitably negligible upshot. The uranium mines kept right on operating.
Gold was discovered in the desert north of Arlit in early 2014. The gold deposits are in undeveloped artisanal mining tracts far from any paved roads or major population centers. Gold is everything uranium is not. It is a totally unregulated endeavor whose benefits ramify throughout the local marketplaces.