|Fig. 1: The SOMAIR building in Niamey (Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Niger became independent from France in 1960. This country is located in West Africa. From 1960 to the present, Niger has undergone eight coups d'état, and has become one of the most anti-democratic and dangerous countries in the world. To make matters worse, the economy is particularly inefficient and poor compared to those of other countries, and there are constant risks of terrorist attacks. However, Niger ranks among the top 5 uranium producers in the world. Naturally, the government strongly supports this activity. 
Niger is a country struck by poverty, and the fact that nuclear energy is available for the country to extract is a blessing. However, uranium extraction to be used for nuclear energy is taken advantage by foreign powers.
Two major uranium-producing mines in Niger account for most of the country's production. The SOMAIR (Société des Mines de l'Air) produced around 3000 tonnes of Uranium in 2013. (The SOMAIR building in Niamey is shown in Fig.1.) It ranks among the top 4 highest producing mines in the world. In addition, COMINAK (Compagnie Minière d'Akouta) produces around 1800 tonnes of Uranium pe year. It is trying to become more competitive.  These production numbers are significnat, and the government vows for this activity to continue. But most of the production is sold to equity holders - in proportion to their ownership.  Thus, while Uranium production contributes to Niger's economy, it does not necessarily give electricity to most of its population.
Uranium is a key element for humanity right now, particularly as an energy-bearing mineral. As with gold or silver, companies can mine and store it. It has two main uses. Very rarely, but just as significant for us, Uranium can be used for medical isotopes.  But mainly Uranium is used for the production of electricity in nuclear power plants. Uranium is so good for the production of electricity because, through fission, it releases enormous amounts of energy.  This great energy release is also dangerous if uranium were to be used as a weapon, that is why there are many regulations regarding uranium mining and its use. We don't want any other Hiroshima!
As of 2008, several rebellions have occurred and threatened mining in Niger. The Tuareg have caused problems, demanding for better division of uranium, and several terrorist groups appear to be a massive danger too.  As an underdeveloped country that is geographically close to many of the terrorist groups of northern Africa, Niger and its mines are in constant danger of situations like these. However, the government's big support of the activity will ensure that mining can become a safer activity. With luck this will help Niger escape its economic backwardness and embark on the road towards economic development.
© Axel Geller. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "Sites Minieres d'Uranium de Somair et Cominak," Institute de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, Rapport DEI/SARG/05-05, May 2005.
 J. Keenan, "Uranium Goes Critical in Niger: Tuareg Rebellions Threaten Sahelian Conflagration," Rev. Afr. Political Econ. 35, 449 (2008).