Niger is the world’s fourth largest uranium producer. Uranium accounts for 70% of the country’s exports and 7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country also has considerable gold and oil reserves. Despite this considerable potential wealth, Niger consistently ranks at or near the bottom on an array of human development indicators; for instance, Niger ranked last out of 187 countries in the UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Index.
Niger’s uranium potential is currently exploited by two Nigerian companies, Somaïr and Cominak, both of which are operated by Areva, a French multinational corporation. Areva’s global annual revenues of more than EUR 8.33 billion exceed Niger’s total GDP of US $8.2 billion.
In 2007, Niger joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and achieved EITI compliant status in 2011. Data compiled by Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l’Analyse Budgétaire (ROTAB), the Publish What You Pay Niger national coalition, from EITI reports, the government, and Areva revealed that the Nigerien government was receiving limited fiscal revenues from its uranium as the result of significant tax exemptions written into mining contracts. The tax exemptions were so large that the personal income taxes that Areva’s employees paid to the government were larger than those paid by Areva itself.
ROTAB disclosed the findings of its research through press conferences, public debates and on the Internet. The results and conclusions were also shared with the Nigerien government and with the Parliamentary Committee on the Extractive Industries. ROTAB campaigned for limiting tax exemptions to the exploration phase. ROTAB pressured Arena to contribute to the rehabilitation of an important road that was in poor condition, and pushed Areva to make the company’s hospitals in this underserved mining region accessible to local citizens, not just its employees.
Prior to ROTAB’s campaigning, Areva had denied responsibility for any environmental or health impacts stemming from its operations. Following ROTAB’s advocacy campaign, Areva agreed to institute a health observatory for the monitoring and prevention of negative impacts associated with its operations.
Niger is in the process of revising its Mining Code and local civil society is analysing the government’s draft proposal. The current draft limits tax exemptions to mining companies and requires mining companies to make financial commitments to environmental restoration before they start operations.
- Thorough data analysis by civil society can disclose the actual level of a company’s fiscal and social contributions and it can be used as a powerful advocacy argument.
Photo credit: Jaw101ie