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Oil, gas, jihadism and militarization in the Taoudeni Basin, Mali

The ‘second front war on terror' in the Sahara is building alongside a growing number of multinationals hoping to extract oil and gas reserves of Mali and Mauritania, and strong French military presence.


In the 1970s, geologists became aware that the Taoudeni basin possesses considerable quantities of gas and liquid petroleum resembling the petroleum-rich provinces in Algeria, Niger, Sudan, and Libya, yet during the following three decades, it remained a ‘last extraction frontier,’ largely unexplored. During one of his numerous visits to the region, the former leader of Libya, Mouammar Kadhafi pronounced this premonition for the Mali’s Sahel-Sahara region, including the Taoudeni Bassin: “The North of Mali is very rich in mineral resources. If you don’t take care, one day the West will come and install themselves permanently in order to exploit your resources.” (Maïga 2015).       The Taoudeni Basin is now being divided and explored. This process has entailed a new phase of exploration from multiple international companies, a reframing of national policies, and increasing insecurity resulting in the militarization of the region. Beginning in 2004 the Government of Mali (GOM) under president Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) began hastening down the pathway towards becoming a member of Africa’s petroleum club, by adopting a new law related to petroleum (LAW No 04-037 / of August 2004), which established the organization of, exploration for, exploitation of, and refining of hydrocarbons. Along with this, nearly 700,000 km2 of land divided into 29 blocks across five sedimentary basins have been marked out across the basin, and these were offered as shared concessions between the national government and foreign petroleum companies.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oil, gas, jihadism and militarization in the Taoudeni Basin, Mali
State or province:Region of Taoudeni, Mali
Location of conflict:Taoudenit
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Taoudeni Basin, spanning from the southern edge of Algeria through northwestern Mali and across Mauritania is one of the main structural units of the West African Craton and the largest sedimentary basin in Africa with an area of approximately two million square kilometers and 5,000 meters thick. Originally, the name stems from the town Taoudenit, a site where salt excavation and trade has persisted since 16th Century. Along with salt, the basin possesses gold, phosphate, natural gas, petroleum, and water, held within what used to be an ancient sea of fresh water. Climate in Taoudeni is extremely harsh, with temperatures climbing to 40 or 48 degrees Celsius during the hottest time of the year.

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Project area:70,000,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project73,700,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:70,000 - 140,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2006
Company names or state enterprises:National Company for Petroleum Research and Exploration (AUREP) from Mali
Baraka Petroleum Limited from Australia
Sonatrach from Algeria
Selier Energy from Canada
Sphere Investments Ltd. from Australia
Markmore Group from Malaysia
Centric Energy from United Kingdom
Heritage Oil from Canada
Circle Oil PLC from Ireland
Raven Resource Group
Total SA from France
Qatar Petroleum (QP) from Qatar
Relevant government actors:Government of Mali; Minister of Mining, Energy, and Water; Government of France; United Nations
International and Finance InstitutionsUnited Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MUNISMA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad (MNLA)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Tuareg (Mouvement Nationale pour la Liberation de l’Azawad)
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Militarization and increased police presence, Other socio-economic impacts, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Institutional changes
Land demarcation
Violent targeting of activists
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:The CMA is interested in seeing investment and funding from the oil production in their zone. Moreover, they wish to have control of how contracts are agreed upon, with much more local input. They do not see an alternative to extracting this oil, at present.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The CMA (Tuareg-led coalition) did not achieve autonomy over their territory and the resources it contains continues, especially due to the mounting threats from multiple jihadist groups upon the stability of the region. There is a continuation of militarization in the zone, which happens together with new investment in Taoudeni.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Mali's Petroleum Code
[click to view]

CMA's Conditions for the signing of the peace accords
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Keenan 2008. US Militarization in Africa: What Anthropologist should know about AFRICOM. ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY, Vol 24 No 5, October 2008
[click to view]

D. Meunier 1980. Le commerce du sel de Taoudeni. Journal des africanistes, Vol 50(2) pp. 133-144.
[click to view]

Brownfield et al. 2016. Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Taoudeni Basin Province, Mali and Mauritania, 2015. USGS
[click to view]

[click to view]

(Arfaoui 2016) Une analyse géopolitique du conflit malien
[click to view]

Besteman, C. 2008. Beware of those bearing gifts: An anthropologist's view of AFRICOM. Anthropology Today, Vol 24(5).
[click to view]

(Le Post 2011) Le Sahel, nouvel Eldorado de l’or noir ?
[click to view]

(Ag Moumoud 2015) "La France nous avait donné son feu vert pour l'indépendance de l'Azawad" / Hama Ag Mahmoud
[click to view]

Macé 2017) Paix au Mali : l'espoir fragile
[click to view]

(Chelbi 2017) L'échec de l'intervention française au Mali
[click to view]

(Turse 2017) The War You've Never Heard of
[click to view]

(Déchainé 2014) La France explore t- elle le bassin pétrolier de Taoudéni ?
[click to view]

(Reuters 2013) Mali: Eni pulls out of Mali on poor prospecting outlook
[click to view]

(Oil Review Africa 2017) Total expands exploration activities in Mauritania with new deep offshore license
[click to view]

Vanderbruck, T. 2013. The untold Story of Mali and Oil. (perspective promoting the return of former colonial powers to protect weak states from terrorism)
[click to view]

(Bainafouna 2012) Les raisons françaises de la déstabilisation du Mali
[click to view]

(OGJ 2004) Mali: Private company awarded huge exploration permit
[click to view]

(21/2/14 RFI) Au Mali, les mineurs de Taoudeni chassés par des hommes armés
[click to view]

(Studer 2013) Mali : l’armée française pour repousser les groupes islamistes … et défendre les intérêts de Total ?
[click to view]

Macron Returns to Mali for Security Summit

French Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard, Army Chief of Staff, General Pierre de Villiers, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian and President Emmanuel Macron visit the troops of Operation Barkhane, France's largest overseas military operation, in Gao, Mali, May 19, 2017.
[click to view]

(Studer 2013) Mali : le pétrolier algérien Sonatrach suspend l’exploration du bassin de Taoudeni
[click to view]

(Oumar J. 2013) Des accords énergétiques au Mali pourraient renforcer la région du Sahel
[click to view]

Sonatrach attend un accord de paix pour reprendre l’exploration pétrolière dans le nord Mali
[click to view]

(Maïga 2015) Uranium – pétrole – eau minérale : Les ressources minières du nord pillées ?
[click to view]

(Carayol 2016) Yvan Guichaoua : « Avec Barkhane, on fabrique des quasi-protectorats » au Sahel
[click to view]

( 2013) Raven Resources Group Acquires Exploration License in Prospective Taoudeni Basin
[click to view]

(Studer 2017) La France demande à l’ONU une force anti-terrorriste G5 Sahel … sous forte odeur de pétrole
[click to view]

(Figaro 12/05/2017) Total signe un contrat en Mauritanie
[click to view]

(Studer 2015) Mali : la stratégie du chaos pour la main-mise de l’uranium, du gaz et du pétrole ?
[click to view]

(Malinet 2017) Mali : LE PETROLE MALIEN, MYTHE OU REALITE : Selon des estimations, le Mali pourrait extraire environ 900 millions de barils sur une période de 25 ans à partir du bassin de Taoudéni
[click to view]

(Wane, CableGate) CableGate ou les murmures de l’Oncle SAM : Les raisons de la « Guerre de Sarkozy » en Libye doivent servir de leçons aux maliens
[click to view]

(Khayar 2013) Lettre ouverte des travailleurs GS4 à Taoudéni
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Julie L. Snorek, Environmental Justice Atlas, [email protected]
Last update02/07/2017
Conflict ID:2806
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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