When France began mining uranium ore in the desert of northern Niger in the early 1970s, Arlit was a cluster of miners’ huts stranded between the sun-blasted rocks of the Air mountains and the sands of the Sahara.
The 1973 OPEC oil embargo changed that. France embraced nuclear power to free itself from reliance on foreign oil and overnight this remote corner of Africa became crucial to its national interests. Arlit has grown into a sprawling settlement of 117,000 people, while France now depends on nuclear power for three-quarters of its electricity, making it more reliant on uranium than any country on earth.
Niger has become the world’s fourth-largest producer of the ore after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia. But uranium has not enriched Niger. The former French colony remains one of the poorest countries on earth. More than 60 percent of its 17 million people survive on less than $1 a day. — Read More
(Photographs: Joe Penney/Reuters)