Niger Revokes French Nuclear Group’s License at Major Uranium Mine


Niger has revoked the operating license of French nuclear fuel producer Orano at the Imouraren uranium mine, escalating tensions with France as Russia eyes the strategic site.

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The move highlights the strained relations between Niger and its former colonial power, France, following a military coup last year.

State-owned Orano announced on Thursday that it had been ordered to cease operations at the Imouraren mine in northern Niger, a site estimated to contain 200,000 tonnes of uranium used for nuclear power and weapons.

Background and Current Developments
Reporting from Abuja, Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris said the Nigerien Ministry of Mining had warned Orano it would revoke the license if development had not commenced by June 19. Orano maintained that it had recently resumed activities at the site, reopening infrastructures to accommodate construction teams in line with government directives.

Mining at Imouraren was initially slated to start in 2015 but was postponed due to the collapse in global uranium prices following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Geopolitical Implications
The Nigerien government’s decision to revoke Orano’s license could have significant geopolitical implications. Relations between Niger and France deteriorated sharply after last year’s coup. The new government expelled the French ambassador, evicted several hundred French soldiers, and shut down French military bases in Niger.

In response to increasing support from Russia and Iran, the Nigerien government has pledged to review foreign mining concessions. Russian companies have expressed interest in the Imouraren site, and there has been increased activity between Russian businesses and mercenaries in Niger.

Orano’s History in Niger
Orano has operated in Niger since 1971. Although the uranium mine at Arkokan closed in 2021, Orano continues to run another mine in the northern region of Arlit, despite logistical challenges.

Niger supplies about a quarter of the natural uranium used in Europe. However, it is a landlocked country, and its main sea access through Benin is currently closed, hindering mineral exports. The government cites security reasons for this closure.

Next Steps
Orano stated 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 license in national or international courts.” The Niger government has not yet commented on the revocation.

Source: The Associated Press

By Naija247news
By Naija247news
Naija247news is an investigative news platform that tracks news on Nigerian Economy, Business, Politics, Financial and Africa and Global Economy.

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