Niger oil, mining deals unaffected by coup: China


China’s multi-billion dollar projects in Niger have not been affected by a Feb. 18 coup, the Chinese ambassador there said in a statement that also rejected criticism of China’s deals with the West African nation.

Chinese firms are ploughing billions of dollars into oil and mining projects in the poor desert state but media and civil society groups have criticised the lack of transparency over deals and conditions of workers employed by the Chinese.
“We are happy to note that the projects have not been disrupted by the events of Feb. 18,” Xia Huang, China’s ambassador to Niamey, said in rare public comments broadcast on Niger’s state television earlier this week.
“There have been some difficulties but I am convinced that the two sides will resolve these in the spirit of a “win-win” cooperation,” he added, without giving any details.

The military junta that ousted President Mamadou Tandja has pledged to clean up politics and business in Niger, which analysts say had become riddled with corruption linked to mining deals handed out over the last few years of his rule.

The soldiers’ anti-corruption pledge is popular amongst many in one of the world’s poorest nations.

But diplomats have questioned the junta’s readiness to tackle a $5 billion oil deal with Chinese state-owned CNPC, or a $300 million uranium mining project that will be carried out by another Chinese state-owned firm, SINO-U.

The lack of information surrounding the deals has led to increased speculation and criticism of the terms, while a string of complaints over the conditions for local workers on the Chinese projects have emerged in the media.

Some local media have also linked China to the instability in Niger.
“These are fallacious allegations,” Huang said. “There are investors in Niger from a large number of countries and companies, yet why is it only the Chinese investments that are seen to have a negative impact?
“Nigeriens should ask themselves. They are the eyewitnesses, the direct beneficiaries of our cooperation and are best-positioned to make a judgement,” he added.

Former colonial power France’s state-owned nuclear energy group Areva has long been Niger’s top investor. But the firm lost its monopoly on the uranium sector under Tandja and miners from across the world now have exploration contracts.