Analysts warn miners of coup d'état risks in Mauritania

Mining companies with interests in Mauritania will face some challenges, but no major disturbances in the event of a coup d'état in the northwest African country, whose President was shot and flown to France for medical treatment on Sunday, say analysts.

According to the latest report from the UK-based research house Exclusive Analysis, the attack against the country’s leader, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has set the coup-prone country on edge and forced the Western ally against al Qaeda to ask Mauritanians to keep calm in a televised message from his hospital bed.

Although official reports claimed the shooting was an accident, Exclusive Analysis’ Middle East & North Africa representative, Zaineb Al-Assam, said she didn’t believe that was the case.

“In previous assessments, we have noted that Aziz has lost some of his supporters since becoming president in 2009, including members of his own tribe, the Wlade Bu Sbaa,” said Al-Assam.

“The shooting was more likely to have been a botched attempt to depose the President,” she added.

The analyst added the primary threat to Aziz's position comes from the military itself as it is the only entity capable of executing a change in leadership.

“In the event of a change in leadership, particularly from a rival tribe, contract cancellations are very unlikely.  Most contracts deemed unfavourable might be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” she continued.

“The mining sector is thus very unlikely to be subject to political interference and there is no precedent for such action following prior coups,” she concluded.

Abdel Aziz was elected in 2009 after seizing power a year earlier, when he overthrew Mauritania's first democratically elected president.

Mining in Mauritania earned the country $375 million last year, including $281 million from sales of iron ore, oil and energy.