It is worth starting with the fact that the African continent has impressive reserves of minerals, including uranium.
Mining and exporting minerals are one of the ways to develop the economy for many countries in Africa. In turn, due to the growing demand for a more affordable energy source in developed countries, there was a need to expand the development of uranium deposits.
According to the Journal of African Earth Sciences, in 2003, interest in nuclear energy was revived as a proposed climate-neutral way to meet the high energy needs of large industrialised countries, such as China, India, Russia, and the United States.
This has caused a growing demand for uranium (U) as a nuclear fuel. Many countries have directed their efforts to capitalize on the increased demand, so the development of deposits has concentrated in Africa.
The French holding company Areva, founded in 2001, is one of the main developers of uranium in African francophone countries. The period of the “revival” of uranium development is associated not only with the growing demand for an affordable energy source, but also with the extraction of uranium as a component for nuclear weapons (atomic bombs and strategic and tactical projectiles, neutron bombs, hydrogen bomb triggers, etc).
However, the use of uranium for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons is prohibited by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). An interesting detail: the export of uranium is prohibited by neither the NPT or the TPNW unless the state party exporting the uranium knows that the material in question is likely to be used to develop a nuclear explosive device.
Otherwise, states parties to the TPNW – just like parties to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – are implicitly permitted to export uranium, including to nuclear-armed states and states not a party to the TPNW.
This nuance means that the developers of uranium can supply a component of nuclear weapons to countries that intend to enter the category of a country with nuclear weapons and strengthen their military power. For a long time, Paris was engaged in the development of uranium in Niger.
According to data for 2019, France ranks 3rd in terms of uranium exports in the world, while Niger occupies a much lower position. But uranium has not enriched Niger. The former French colony remains one of the poorest countries on earth. And the French claim that the era of colonialism is over.
France has a large number of licenses for the development of uranium in Africa.
It became known that Paris, using the unstable situation in the region, is exporting unregistered uranium for sale to North Korea. A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on North Korea reveals ongoing uranium enrichment at its Yongbyon facility and continuing progress toward the construction of an experimental light-water reactor (LWR).
In addition, French entrepreneurs of the Areva holding and others are involved in the transportation of unregistered uranium mined in African countries to Iran. On January 16, 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran has completed the necessary steps under the Iran deal that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.
In the context of the growing Turkish influence on the continent, Paris decided to balance the powers in the region. It is Turkey that acts as one of the new partners for cooperation with the former colonies of France. As a result of the increased interest in Africa and the diversification of players on the continent, former colonial powers with active agendas on are gaining ground.
Turkey has made a concerted effort to broaden its policies in Africa and raise its profile since the AK Party came to power. Turkey has increased its number of embassies from 12 in 2003 to 43 by 2021, as it seeks to strengthen its ties with Africa.
Areva Holding has licenses for the development of uranium in several countries of the continent at once. For example, in Mali, The Falea uranium deposit in Southwestern Mali, 250 km west of Bamako, is being explored by Vancouver-based GoviEx Uranium.
Areva was exploring the Saraya East uranium deposit, 80 km from Falea. Joseph Henrotin, a political scientist specializing in defense issues and editor-in-chief of the journal Défense et Sécuritéinternationale, says that operation Barkhane, therefore, protects the interests of French companies.
But ” this is not the primary objective, it is an induced effect,” he insists. The Macron administration decided to suspend the operation at the beginning of next year due to the spread of anti-French sentiment in the country, as well as due to the obvious failure of the operation in the fight against terrorism in the region, which suffered victims both from the French side and from civilians.
The French holding also has a license for development in the CAR. Having taken over UraMinInc, Areva was proposing to develop the $200 million Bakouma project in the east of the country.
The development of uranium in the CAR continues to this day, despite the unstable security situation. It is worth noting that the license agreement does not bring any benefit to the CAR. Areva Resources Centrafrique holds a 90% interest over ten discrete deposits, while the government holds a 10% free carried share.
This happened due to the fact that when gaining its independence from France, the CAR, like many other countries of the colonial era, was forced to undertake to provide licenses for the development of minerals to the French on favorable terms for Paris, and also, cooperation with it should be a priority.
According to the Director of Health of the Mother Earth Foundation, the plundering of the continent’s resources is a new wave of colonization.
Paris is determined: there is an obvious need to restore the reputation and influence in African countries, to eliminate possible partners that are beneficial for the development of Africa. However, is it worth putting France’s personal interests higher than world security within the framework of the nuclear weapons treaty?