Niger Revokes Mining Permit Of French Nuclear Firm Orano

Niger has revoked the operating license of French nuclear fuel producer Orano at the Imouraren mine, one of the world’s largest uranium deposits, amid rising geopolitical tensions and shifts in the African nation’s alliances. This move underscores the ongoing tensions between France and Niger’s ruling junta, which seized power in a coup last July and has since sought to distance itself from its former colonial ruler while forging closer ties with Russia and other nations.

Orano confirmed the license revocation, stating that it “takes note of the decision by the Niger authorities” that it had been excluded from the Imouraren mine, which contains an estimated 200,000 tonnes of uranium. The French company had begun preparatory work at the site earlier this month to meet the Nigerien government’s deadline of June 19.

Despite these efforts, Niger’s Ministry of Mines issued a final notice on June 11, stating that Orano’s development plan did not meet the authorities’ expectations, leading to the withdrawal of the permit​.

The decision reflects the broader geopolitical shifts in the region. Following the coup, Niger’s new military rulers have expelled French forces and ended a decade-long security agreement with the US. Concurrently, they have been increasing cooperation with Russia.

In April, Russian military instructors arrived in Niger to train local forces, and high-level discussions have taken place to explore further economic and defense collaborations.

France has long relied on Niger for about 15% of its uranium needs, crucial for powering its nuclear reactors, which provide 65% of the country’s electricity. European Union utilities also depend significantly on Nigerien uranium, which accounted for about a quarter of their supply in 2022​.

In light of the license revocation, Orano has expressed its readiness to challenge the decision in national or international courts, while emphasizing its willingness to maintain dialogue with Nigerien authorities. The company highlighted the potential negative impacts on the economic and social development of the region due to the withdrawal​.

“Orano fears that this decision to withdraw the mining permit for the deposit will have a negative impact on the economic, social and societal development of the region,” the company said.

The firm added that it was “prepared to keep open all channels of communication with the Niger authorities on this subject, while reserving the right to contest the decision to withdraw the mining licence in the national or international courts”.

The situation is further complicated by the strategic interests of Russia in Niger’s uranium sector. Reports indicate that Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear company, has been in contact with Niger’s military-led government regarding the acquisition of assets previously controlled by Orano. This move is part of Russia’s broader strategy to increase its influence in Africa, capitalizing on the anti-French sentiment prevalent in many former colonies​.

This development is a significant blow to Orano, which has been active in Niger for over 50 years, operating various mines in the region. The Imouraren project was expected to supply uranium for several decades, contributing to France’s energy security.

Information for this briefing was found via France24, BBC, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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