Miners flock to a remote desert region in impoverished Niger marked by migration, jihadist terrorism and narcotics smuggling
TCHIBARAKATEN, Niger—A teeming tent city is rising here in a remote Saharan outpost where vast migration, jihadist terrorism and narcotics smuggling often cross paths.
Over the past two years, some 35,000 people have flocked from West and Central Africa to this lawless region separating Niger from Algeria, the Ministry of Mines said, most seeking a literal pot of gold.
Tchibarakaten has the largest functioning artisanal gold mine in Niger, a poverty-stricken nation with the world’s highest birthrate that has become a key ally in the West’s war on terror and efforts to curb migration.
The miners have traveled by donkey, motorcycle and even foot, making the last part of their journeys in trucks escorted by the military. In doing so, they have transformed this barren landscape into a desert metropolis.
Stores sell everything from cookies and cans of tuna to metal detectors and dynamite. Restaurants, clinics and makeshift bars have sprouted up, powered by buzzing generators.
The mine—located almost three days by car from the nearest settlement—has become a magnet for Africans seeking wealth, money to send home or a way station to finance the next stage of an increasingly expensive and perilous journey to Europe.
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