A commenter on Mali: a French War for Uranium suggested that if "that zone" (presumably the Sahara in Mali and Niger) were such an El Dorado the U.S. and the Chinese would have long been interested. Actually, it turns out numerous countries are involved, especially along the Uranium Highway in the Uranium Province in Niger. Not the Americans so much, but definitely the Chinese.
According to World Information Service on Energy Uranium Project, in Mali, it's the Canadians (Cascade Resources Ltd., Northern Canadian Uranium Inc., Rockgate Capital Corp.) and the Australians (Oklo Uranium Ltd).:
The following companies are performing uranium prospection and/or exploration in Mali: Cascade Resources Ltd. , Northern Canadian Uranium Inc. , Rockgate Capital Corp. , Oklo Uranium Ltd deposit info
Opposition to uranium mining in Faléa: Association des ressortissants et amis de la Commune de Faléa (ARACF)
Pre-Feasibility study on Faléa mine project started: On Nov. 15, 2012, Rockgate Capital Corp. announced the commencement of a Pre-Feasibility study on its Faléa U-Ag-Cu project in south-west Mali. Rockgate has engaged the services of the DRA Group of Johannesburg, South Africa to complete the study.
Environmental and social baseline studies commissioned on Faléa mine project: On April 26, 2010, Rockgate Capital Corp. announced that it has commissioned environmental and social baseline studies on the Faléa Project, Mali.
Apparently Niger has more recoverable Uranium than either the U.S. or Canada; more than Kazakhstan; more than any country except Australia.
In Niger, it's Russia, Korea, India, and here are a few notes about Chinese involvement:
Areva ready to give Chinese access to Imouraren uranium mine: French nuclear giant Areva is ready to open up to a Chinese partner the
Imouraren uranium mine in northwestern Niger, which it partially owns, the French president's office said Thursday (Nov. 4). (AFP Nov. 5, 2010)
Azelik deposit (Teguidda deposit), Agadez region> View deposit info
Azelik mine in Niger sends first uranium shipment to China On Oct. 22, 2012, CNNC's Azelik mine sent the first shipment of uranium product to China. Construction of the mine started in July 2008, and pilot production commenced in March 2011. (CNNC Oct. 30, 2012)
Niger secures $99 million China loan for Azelik uranium mine: Niger has secured a 650 million yuan preferential loan from China's Export-Import Bank to fund development of the Azelik uranium mine in the country's north, the government said.
Niger and China's National Nuclear Corporation formed a joint venture, Somina, in 2007 for development of the Azelik deposit, with production of 700 tonnes per year.
The loan is repayable in 15 years with a five-year grace period and an interest rate of 2 percent, a source close to the joint-venture company told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The government did not comment on the terms of the loan. (Reuters Apr. 1, 2011)
China produces first overseas uranium in Niger: The Azelik mine produced its first barrels of uranium product on Dec. 30, 2010. The company will now continue testing and improvements to reach full capacity as soon as possible. (CNNC Dec. 31, 2010)
The overseas arm of China National Nuclear Corp expects to produce its first uranium this year and to raise production to 2,500 tonnes by 2015, an executive said on Tuesday (Nov. 16).
Chen Yuehui deputy general manager of China Uranium Corporation told a conference that the Azelik mine in Niger, 37.2 percent owned by the company, would start trial production before the year-end.
China Uranium Corp plans to take output to 4,000-5,000 tonnes by 2020. It also plans to have total uranium resources of 1 million tonnes by 2015. (Reuters Nov. 16, 2010)
China uranium mining company causes unrest in Niger: The sun-wizened Tuareg women of Azalik have declared war on China. Like their ancestors, they once eked out a living selling dried salts from an ancestral well. Everything changed last year, when the government leased their land to the China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (Sino-U) for uranium exploration. Left with no livelihood and no compensation, a hundred women gathered to launch stones at mining machinery.
Tuareg rebels accuse deposed president Tandja's administration and mining companies of neglecting development in the north, which is a Tuareg stronghold.
Last month Nigerien workers – many of whom are Tuareg – denounced in a written statement conditions at SOMINA, claiming it resembled "a Chinese colony." Nigerien laborers sleep in dorms, separately from Chinese workers. The rooms are located in illegal proximity to open pit uranium mines, and the Nigeriens suffer chronic diarrhea on account of an unsanitary water supply, the document charged. (Christian Science Monitor Mar. 29, 2010)
Sinohydro Corp. , China's leading hydraulic construction contractor announced it has secured a 140 million U.S. dollar uranium mine construction deal in Niger with China Nuclear International Uranium Corp. (SinoUranium).
The contract calls for building a uranium mine with annual output of 600,000 tons, a coal-fired power plant and a hydrometallurgy plant in the African country, Sinohydro said in a statement on its website. The construction will last 900 days. (People's Daily Online Apr. 8, 2008)
A coal plant? That's an interesting wrinkle for a uranium mining company. What happened to nuclear power being good for the environment because it supposedly reduced coal burning?
On Nov. 9, 2007, the government of Niger granted Société des Mines d'Azelik (SOMINA) a mining license for the Azelik uranium deposit. SOMINA was formed on June 5, 2007, by the state of Niger and its Chinese partners. On June 19, 2007, the company applied for a mining license for the Azelik uranium deposit. The application was accompanied by an environmental impact study which was approved in July 2007, and a technical-economical feasibility study. The license was granted, after the latter study had been modified, as requested by the authorities. (Tamtaminfo Nov. 9, 2007)
CNNC plans the first production from the Teguidda deposit for the beginning of 2010. (Trendfield, July 24, 2006)
Here’s a treasure map to the Uranium Highway in the Uranium Province of this Saharan El Dorado:
The commenter thought:
"More simply, eradication of Islamic fundamentalist movements became a necessity to ensure the security of peoples of the world."
"The sun-wizened Tuareg women of Azalik" don't sound much like religious fundamentalists to me. Their motivation seems clear: "Left with no livelihood and no compensation". I suppose it is a good excuse that some of the separatists in Mali are religiously organized, but there are half a dozen groups in Mali, a secular separatist coalition, a Songhai ethnic militia, a Fulani ethnic militia, and at least three different religious groups, plus some drug lords.
Still looks like a French war for uranium to me. If the French are also protecting the interests of all the other countries mining in that Saharan El Dorado, that merely adds to my point. The commenter wishes for the French to succeed. I wish that we don't get dependent on uranium so we don't need to fight wars for it.