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Niamey junta cancels France’s Orano permit in uranium mine

The regime’s action against the French nuclear group sends a message to Paris and may open to the mine to a Russian investor

Niger’s military junta’s decision to revoke the operating licence of French nuclear fuel producer Orano at the Imouraren mine in northern Niger, which sits on an estimated 200,000 tonnes of uranium, is the latest blow to French influence in the country.

Orano signed a deal in May 2023 with the government of former President Mohamed Bazoum which gave it the option to develop the Imouraren deposit. Orano then committed €85 million to investigating Imouraren. However, little further progress has been made since last year’s coup which ousted Bazoum (AC Vol 64 No 18, Toxic times for uranium).

The Nigerien Ministry of Mining had warned it would revoke Orano’s licence if development of the mine had not started by 19 June. Orano insists that it had recently resumed ‘activities’ at the site.

The military government’s move comes weeks after the European Union and United States agreed to withdraw their military forces from Niger in the coming months as the junta cuts its links with the west.

The French firm is not the first to have been forced out by the junta on the pretext of having moved too slowly to develop their site.

In April, General Abdourahamane Tiani gave Canada’s GoviEx Uranium a 3 July deadline to start mining at its Madaouéla project or risk losing its permit, prompting speculation that the site could be awarded to Russian firms in line with the junta’s increasingly close political ties to Moscow (AC Vol 65 No 9, Yellowcake woes).

Fellow Canadian firm Global Atomic, meanwhile, remains in favour with Tiani’s government and is on track for near-term production.

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