gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); Niger Revokes Uranium Mine Permit from French Company Orano, Escalating Tensions – The Zimbabwe Mail

Niger Revokes Uranium Mine Permit from French Company Orano, Escalating Tensions

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Niamey, Niger,– Nigerien military authorities have revoked the operating permit for a major uranium mine from the French company Orano, significantly escalating tensions between the military junta and the country’s former colonial power.

Niger, a landlocked nation of 26 million people, ranks as the world’s seventh-largest supplier of uranium, a crucial element for nuclear power and weapons production. In 2022, Niger provided over a quarter of the uranium used in the European Union, making it the bloc’s second-biggest source after Kazakhstan, according to the EU’s nuclear energy agency.

Prior to last year’s military coup, Niger was a key economic and security ally for Western nations in the Sahel region, which has increasingly become a hotspot for violent extremism. However, the military junta that seized power with promises to sever ties with the West has vowed to review all mining concessions and has ordered the withdrawal of Western troops.

The Imouraren mine, located in northern Niger, is one of the largest uranium deposits in the world, with reserves estimated at 200,000 tons. Mining activities were slated to begin in 2015 but were delayed due to a sharp decline in uranium prices following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Despite the recent resumption of activities at Imouraren, the Nigerien junta’s decision to revoke Orano’s permit comes amid improving market conditions and rising uranium prices, which had renewed prospects for the mine’s operation. “Current market conditions, with a favourable increase in the price of uranium, make it possible to once again consider putting Imouraren into operation,” Orano stated.

In a letter dated June 20 and seen by The Associated Press, the Nigerien mining ministry criticized Orano’s exploitation plan for failing to meet their expectations. Consequently, the mine has been “returned to the public domain” and all contractual rights have been nullified, the letter indicated.

Orano, which has operated in Niger for over 50 years, expressed its disappointment and emphasized its longstanding commitment to partnership and transparency.

“We have always followed a responsible approach of partnership and transparency, acting in continuous consultation with the State of Niger and local stakeholders,” the company asserted. Orano also conveyed its willingness to maintain open communication channels with the Nigerien junta but reserved the right to contest the permit withdrawal in national or international courts.

This development marks a significant escalation in the ongoing dispute between Niger’s military government and France, underscoring the broader geopolitical and economic ramifications of the junta’s policies in the region.