Some Additional Things to Think About

Looking further into my commentary released today, there are additional things to consider.  In August 2007, the South Sudanese Government awarded a uranium mining contract to the UK’s Brinkley Mining.  Brinkley’s Executive Chairman, Mr. Gerard Holden, was the Managing Director and Global Head of Mining and Metals at Barclay’s Bank, which just purchased a sizable share in Rwanda’s national bank this week.  Brinkley, through its subsidiary Brinkley Africa Ltd. also owns the rights to exploit the premier uranium concessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province, including the infamous Shinkolobwe mine.  Brinkley created a new company in Congo with the CGEA called Societe d’Inspection des Matieres Nucleaires et des Substances Radioactive (SOCIMAR).  SOCIMAR is mandated by the CGEA to conduct radiation testing and certification of uranium exports.

Brinkley’s interest in the region is important because Great Britain has recently become very engaged and vocal in the Darfur issue, but back in 2004, Sir Michael Jackson, who served as General Wesley Clark’s deputy in the NATO mission that balkanized and destroyed Yugoslavia, said back in 2004 that Britain could send in 5,000 soldiers to Darfur in the event of a military invasion of Sudan.  Great Britain is interested in increasing their reliance on nuclear power.  Back in 2006, Britain produced 20% of its electricity from nuclear energy, but as an island with no petrol of its own, they are hit hard by rising fuel costs and they, like France, rely on Russia and the North Sea for their petrol.  Former PM Tony Blair and former French President Jacques Chirac started a nuclear partnership in 2006.  Current French President Nicolas Sarkozy deepened those ties last week when he worked out a deal for 4 nuclear reactors to be built by the French Government-controlled Electricite de France.  So like France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy, a balance of power in Northeast Africa is a matter of vital importance in order to be able to exploit their concessions.

The French state-owned uranium mining giant Areva has deeper ties in the region that must be considered.  In mid-2007, Areva purchased another uranium mining giant, Canada’s UraMin.  The acquisition gave Areva rights to the uranium deposits in Bakouma, located in Southeastern Central African Republic.  The CAR, which was part of the French-colonial Federation of French Equatorial Africa, still houses a French military base that is used to maintain French influence and launch military operations in the region.  Recently, French troops stationed in CAR ventured into Darfur and came under fire.  One French soldier was killed.

UraMin has expanded its operations in the region and is currently exploring for uranium in the Sodje Mbaye, Madagzang, Yedri Ténéré and Fada Itou areas in northwest, east and southwest Chad. These areas were previously explored by the United Nations Development Programme and the International Atomic Energy Agency in the late 1970s and early 1980s according to UraMin’s website.

European and South African-based Signet Mining Services, a ~4% owner of Brinkley Mining, is also active in the region mining for uranium.  Through Brinkley, they are interested in becoming more involved in the DRC’s uranium deposits.  Signet Mining holds four uranium mining concessions in Chad.  According to Signet’s website, under the provisions of the Mining Convention of Chad, ownership of these concessions was transferred to Chad Mining Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blue Marine Global Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Signet Mining Services Ltd.  Exploration is currently underway near the towns of Pala and Lere, located in the Mayo Kebbi District.  The project is managed by Mr. Dyonn Hage and Mr. Shawn Heroldt, who worked for a security company in the DRC at a diamond mine for 2 years.

Signet owns 1 concession and 2 ‘double’ uranium concessions in Niger through their subsidiary Niger Mining Services SARL.  According to their website The eastern double block is called Adrar – Emoles I & II, and the western double concession is Tassadet I & II. The single concession NNW of Tassadet is referred to as In Tabarekat II.  The project is run by Mr. Frank Schmidt and Mr. John Birch.  CEO Mr. Calvyn Gardner hails from Anglo American/Highveld Steel.  Technical Manager Mr. Jason Mason-Apps came over from Barrick Gold.

Besides the energy interests, the US undoubtedly sees the region as a potential national security threat.  One of their concerns with regards to the uranium is the same principle as the oil in Africa relates to the Chinese.  They want to secure it, or at least have their close western allies secure it before an adversary does.  They are concerned that the uranium might find its way onto the black market and someone might make a ‘dirty bomb’ out of it, or even worse, an opposing state that has the proven capability to enrich the uranium.  The US wants to secure the uranium before Sudan delves any further into a failed state because of the internationally supported destabilization of the Khartoum Government that is occuring on several fronts.  An increase in interstate anarchy would make managing and tracking the uranium all the more difficult.  Of course, the opposing liberal constructivist view would mention that this national security threat could be manufactured or deliberately overstated publicly or in private to foreign policy makers in order to justify agressive action in the region.

Leave a comment