Sahel Attacks Prompt Fears in France Over Energy Supply
June 03, 2013
Security is being stepped up at Western installations across Africa's Sahel region following twin attacks in Niger late last month by Islamist militants. Fears are growing over the extent of the militants’ reach in a region with close links to Europe.  The stakes are especially great for France, which is highly dependent on resources mined in its former colonies. Since the 1970s, much of France’s energy supply has derived from the Sahel region of Africa.   So recent attacks on Western commercial interests there have big implications, says energy economist Malcolm Grimston of Imperial College London “It [France] gets not far short of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power - that’s by far the highest proportion in the world.  It uses around 12,500 tons of uranium per year.  Not far short of a third of that comes from Niger already," said Grimston. Last month Islamist suicide bombers staged twin attacks in Niger - targeting this army barracks in Agadez, and the French run Somair uranium mine in Arlit.  One staff member at the mine was killed and uranium production was halted. The French firm Areva owns the Somair mine.  Its president visited Niger the day after the attack to reaffirm the company’s engagement in the country.&