Chinese Investment in Niger
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Oil and Gas Sector
The development of the Nigerien oil and gas industry has been a result of a joint venture between the Nigerien government and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which Reuters reported as being worth US$5 billion. CNPC began extracting crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the hydrocarbon reserves within the Agadem Oilfield in late 2011.. CNPC invested in the extraction facilities at the Agadem Oilfield and developed the Soraz Oil Refinery, which is able to refine up to 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) of petroleum products. These two projects were linked by the Agadem-Soraz Pipeline.
The joint venture called Société des Mines d'Azelik between the Nigerien government, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), ZX JOY INVEST and Trendfield Investment in the Azelik mine represented the first overseas uranium production project conducted by CNNC - it is part of a growing portfolio of Chinese Investments in Africa. The mine should produce some 700 tonnes a year once in full production. As is often the case, the Export-Import bank of China helped finance the development of the mine through a resource-backed development loan to Niger, figures for the size of the loan vary from between $95 and $99 million.
According to a leaked cable from the US Embassy in Niamey, Niger, as of 2010 China was in the process of building a "major portfolio" in Niger's resource sectors and was expected to replace France as Niger's top foreign investor when investments in oil and gas production, refining, uranium mining, and infrastructure were completed. However, the cable describes "a striking lack of transparency in the terms of investment agreements" and suggests that "the comparative advantage of the Chinese is their willingness to ignore international standards of transparency and commercial viability". The cable raises concern over the personal involvement of former President Tandja in building Niger's relationship with China, explaining how his son managed the investment deals in his capacity as the "commercial counsellor" in Niger's Embassy in Beijing.
A separate cable from 2007 suggested that the kidnapping of a Chinese mining executive by the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ), which took place in the mining region of Agadez near the town of Ingall, illustrated a feeling of contempt towards Chinese investors amongst locals for not hiring enough Nigeriens in the uranium-rich region. The cable also cites "a lack of attention to environmental concerns" and the negative "health implications" for the local population in the mining regions as additional motivations. However, the negative press coverage that followed that event was not enough to sway Nigerien opinion on Chinese investment in Niger since projects of 'unconditional' goodwill, such as the construction of a much-needed second bridge to cross the Niger, have resonated well with the majority of Nigeriens, according to the cable.
- "Niger sees 2012 oil revenues at US$164 million" Defence Web, retrieved 3 April 2012.
- "Exploitation pétrolière au Niger, comment en optimiser les retombées?" Cri de Cigogne, retrieved 28 March 2012.
- "Sino-Niger intergrated Agadem completed and becomes operational" CNPC, retrieved 2 April 2012.
- "CNNC’s Overseas Uranium Mine Produced Its First Barrel of Product" China National Nuclear Corporation, retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "The Chinese are coming...to Africa" Economist, 2 April 2012.
- "China National Nuclear Starts Trial Operations at Uranium Mine in Niger" Bloomberg, retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "Chinese Engagement In Niger And Potential Areas For Cooperation" Wikileaks, retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "China’s Uranium Quest Part 2: The Turn to Foreign Markets" The Jamestown Foundation, retrieved 3 April 2012.
- "Niger rebels kidnap Chinese uranium executive" Reuters, retrieved 12 April 2012.
- "A Bridge From China To Niger" Wikileaks, retrieved 4 April 2012.