On Monday, October 9, the French mining company Areva, operating in Arlit (Agadez region, northern Niger) announced that layoffs are planned in 2018 affecting Somaïr, one of its subsidiaries, due to economic issues related to the fall in uranium prices on the global market. The company has not released details on how many layoffs are expected, but local sources have reported that hundreds of people are expected to lose their jobs. Meanwhile, Areva also announced that that employees living in company-provided housing will no longer benefit from company-paid electricity and water services, but will henceforth be responsible for those bills. These announcements are likely to prompt protests, especially anti-French protests, among affected employees.
The presence of Western companies and interests in Niger has recently become the source of fresh tensions in the country. Nationwide protests took place in February 2017 to denounce the presence of Western military bases (French, German, and US bases) located across the country. Some protesters also demanded the cancelation of an agreement signed in 2014 that granted a monopoly to French group Bolloré regarding the handling of the two largest customs warehouses of Niamey, a monopoly that led to a significant increase in taxes.
Areva has been exploiting uranium in northern Niger for nearly 50 years, with uranium currently accounting for nearly 35 percent of Areva's total production. In 2014, Areva renewed five-year mining agreements with Niger for Somaïr and Cominak to continue mining activity. Niger is the world's fourth-largest uranium producer.
Individuals in Niger are advised to monitor developments of the situation and avoid all public gatherings as violence may flare up without warning.
As a reminder, many Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to areas located in the north and west of the country, as well as areas along the Nigerian border to the south, due to the high risk of terrorist activity.