All the gold in France

Discussion Note by Jurgen W. – Workers GB anti-imperialist group, Inspired by and based on the research of a German comrade (MEP)

Mining in Africa for the benefit of imperialism

There is not a single active gold mine in today’s France. Nevertheless, this criminal former colonial power now owns with 2436 tons the fourth largest gold reserves globally.

The former French colony of Mali does not own a single ton of gold while it has several dozens of gold mines (amongst them 14 official ones), producing approx. 70 tons per year.

Only 10% of the proceeds of the nearly 60 tons of gold which are produced by estimated 600.000 children in the former French colony Burkina Faso are going into that country, while 90% are raked in by multinational companies.

France itself closed the last of its 210 Uranium mines in 2001. Since then, all problems associated with environment- and health-damaging uranium mining, including the dangers of radioactivity, have been exported elsewhere as a precautionary measure.

About a quarter of Europe’s uranium imports and a third of France’s uranium imports come from the West African Niger. France, with its 56 nuclear power plants, occupies a leading (expandable) position among the world’s nuclear power exporters. Their operational fuel is procured by the state-owned nuclear giant Orano (formerly Areva) which owns the tallest granite building among the skyscrapers of the Paris capital district of La Défense. The business is dealt with in secret contracts, for example from Niger, where the company has three huge uranium mines and the majority stake in Niger’s state-owned companies uranium processing (Somaïr).

The former French colony of Niger has the highest quality uranium ores in Africa and is the seventh largest uranium producer in the world, but according to the World Bank 81.4% of its citizens are not even connected to the electricity grid. 40% live below the poverty line, a third of all children are underweight, and the illiteracy rate is 63%. Only half of the residents have access to clean drinking water, and only 16% are connected to adequate sanitation.

Inside a gold mine in Transvaal, South Africa. Slaves breaking rocks. Antique illustration. 1896. Source: image Adobe Stock

The entire national budget of Niger, a country with more than 5 times the area of Great Britain, is around 4.5 billion Euros, and thereby no larger than the annual turnover of the French nuclear company.

Despite its uranium and gold deposits, Niger was recently ranked 189th out of 191 countries in the development index.

In the course of the “decolonization” of the 1960s, France gave its former colonies formal independence, but left them with political and legal systems that – as in the colonial era – were designed, on the one hand, to control the population with as little effort as possible, and on the other hand to export as many raw materials as possible.

It is not enough that France has continued to secure the right of first refusal to all natural resources and privileged access to state contracts. Through the so-called “colonial pact” in FrançAfrique independent economic or social policies of the formally sovereign states are made lastingly impossible.        

The 14 CA states are not only chained to the Euro by a fixed exchange rate determined solely by the descendants of French colonial messieurs (which resulted in a 50% devaluation in 1994), but they also have lost full access to 85% of their foreign reserves because they had to be deposited with the Agence France Trésor. All CFA states are rich in raw materials and no less heavily indebted.

Despite their immense natural resources, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are among the poorest countries in the world.

“My generation doesn’t understand this,” says the 35-year-old head of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traoré. “How can Africa, which has so much wealth, become the poorest continent in the world?”

So, there are reasons why the French embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger, is burning.

In order to turn the “mood” in Africa in its favour, the EU and its imperialist allies are trying to blind the continent with what they imagine to be an “information war”, with the world-famous ingenuity of the Brussels bureaucrats, resulting in a continuous loop of the 135 sharpest “Western Value” speeches from the Mrs von der Leyen and others.

It is fairly obvious why citizens in the streets of West and Central African states do not carry the French tricolour or the blue European banner, but the Russian flag. And whether the US or the EU like it or not, a growing section of the (especially younger) African population does not see Putin as a villain, but rather as the champion of a global freedom movement that is fighting against the geopolitical actors maintaining the West’s order of exploitation and subjugation in their regions, also called the “rules-based-order”.

All of this will not go away by good (or well-feigned) words, not by clumsy EU information warriors, and no less by carpet bombardments or “boots on the ground”, but only by the fact that -after centuries- the relationship between the West and the “global South” has to change and oppression, paternalism, plundering, theft of raw materials and taking advantage through (mafia-like) unequal trade contracts come to an overdue end.

The military government of Niger itself gives a first impression of its ability and determination: As the USA announced that it would stop all aid payments to Niger, the regime – according to African sources – said that the “democratic world market leader” should keep its aid and use it for the millions of homeless people in the United States. “Charity begins at home”.

Ibrahim Traoré is not only the head of state of Burkina Faso, but, as a graduate of the University of Ougadougou and the local military academy, he is also a geologist and officer. As the youngest and smartest head of state, the 35-year-old rightly threatens to become the bearer of hope for the (West-) African uprising against neo-colonialism and Western dominance. Traoré has also pushed French troops out the door and banned the export of gold and uranium to France and the US, while forging a regional alliance with Niger, Guinea, Mali and Algeria.

France and the USA are threatening – themselves and through their intermediaries from ECOWAS – with violent intervention to restore the “democratic” order of exploitation. Burkina Faso and Mali recently declared that they would see a military intervention by the USA-France-Great Britain-ECOWAS axis in Niger as a declaration of war against themselves. This clear announcement was made by the Malian government spokesman Abdoulaye Maïga twice and repeated a third time verbatim. Guinea sees it similarly, and Algeria, which has a military cooperation agreement with Niger, “will not remain idle in the event of a foreign intervention”.

The last thing West Africa needs is also, coincidentally, the last thing we need, and coincidentally the last thing the rest of the world needs: another bloody war.


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