There are many voices in the European media, which say France is intervening in Mali for the sake of its energy supply. That is not surprising since 80% of France’s electricity is from nuclear power, and the region of West Africa is rich with uranium deposits.
Neighbouring Niger, which is the world’s fifth-largest uranium producer, accounts for 33% of France’s uranium supply, but that is set to rise. The French energy company Areva, which is mostly state-owned, is opening a new exploration site in Imouraren, about 300 kilometres from the Malian border. Areva has been calling for military protection of the uranium mines for a long time, but their requests have been rejected on the basis that elite soldiers could not be used permanently to safeguard economic interests.
Recent terrorist attacks on French citizens, such as those in Algeria, have made Paris warier of the threat to important industry and mining installations in West Africa. Days after the Algeria hostage crisis, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian gave his consent for the use of a special unit to protect the mine in Imouraren. The minster’s decision shows that the government takes the threat of its economic interests by terrorists in West Africa seriously.
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