Uranium Fueling Niger Coup?


"Uranium seems to be the only thing going for the impoverished and politically unstable Niger"

Last week in Niger, a military junta led by Platoon Commander Salou Djibo calling itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) launched a bloody coup against the elected government of President Tandja Mamadou.

The United Nations, the European Union and the African Union, which has subsequently expelled Niger, have all condemned the military takeover that involved the deaths of at least three people in a four-hour gun battle.

Uranium seems to be the only thing going for the impoverished and politically unstable Niger, ranked last of 182 countries on the UN's 2009 Human Development Index. This latest coup is the fourth since 1974 in the mostly Islamic West African country whose population totals 15 million.

Yellowcake accounts for 72% of national exports from Niger, the world's sixth-biggest uranium producer responsible for about 7% of global supply in 2008. According to analysts at Macquarie Bank, that number should increase to around 10% by 2015.

France has dominated Niger's resources since it became a French colony in 1922 and has managed to hold onto its vast uranium reserves even after the African nation acquired independence in 1960.

Niger plays an important role in meeting France's energy demands. The European nation obtains three-quarters of its energy needs from nuclear power and 40% of its uranium fuel comes from Niger.

While bloody coups and rebellions are becoming commonplace in many parts of Africa, this one is raising some eyebrows over possible U.S. involvement.

In his most recent article, political consultant and Global Research contributor Michael Carmichael casts light on what could be just an "an odd coincidence."

According to Carmichael, a Congressional delegation led by Florida Democrat Alan Grayson was in Niger's capital of Niamey at the time the coup took place reportedly on matters concerning science, technology and humanitarian relief.

Edward Sterck of BMO Capital Markets says the coup may actually be good for uranium prices as its new leaders might "interfere with uranium production or place extra demands on producers. Market uncertainty may result in a boost to the spot price of uranium if nervous utilities move to increase inventories."

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