Niger’s new development strategy, the Economic and Social Development Plan, is also intended to guide international development cooperation. Environmental governance of uranium mining, the country’s by far largest single economic activity, appears hitherto to have constituted a ‘blind spot’ for environmentally oriented development cooperation. It is now time to remove the blinkers and include support to strengthen environmental governance of the mining sector in new programmes to assist Niger in meeting its development challenges
Niger is well known in international media as one of the world’s poorest countries, struggling with chronic structural hunger and malnutrition. UNDP ranks Niger 186 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, and in 2011, five million people (33% of Niger’s population) were at ‘high risk’ to food insecurity.
What is less well known is that Niger also hosts the fourth largest uranium production in the world. Export values totalled over EUR 348 million in 2010, representing more than twice the total development assistance finance received during the same year. However, the state retains less than one fifth of the value of the uranium ore that is exported. The exploitation of the mineral wealth by international investors is expanding, with granted and requested mining concessions comprising close to 10% of the national territory.