Niger Revokes French Operating Licence at Major Uranium Mine

Niger Revokes French Operating Licence at Major Uranium Mine

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Niger has revoked the operating licence of French nuclear fuel producer Orano at one of the world's biggest uranium mines, the company said Thursday, in a move that highlighted tensions between France and the African country's ruling junta.

French mining company Orano announced it has been excluded from the Imouraren uranium mine in northern Niger, a site with an estimated 200,000 tons of uranium, used for nuclear power and weapons.

Mining at Imouraren was supposed to begin in 2015 but was halted due to a collapse in global uranium prices following the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster.

The Nigerien government has yet to comment on Orano’s statement.

However, it had previously committed to reviewing mining concessions and warned that Orano's license would be revoked if development work had not commenced by June 19.

A week before the deadline, Orano informed AFP that "preparatory work" had recently started at Imouraren.

"Orano takes note of the decision by the Niger authorities to withdraw from its subsidiary Imouraren SA its licence to work the deposit," the company said in a statement on Thursday.

It added that the decision came despite its recent resumption of "activities" at the site, which it said were in accordance with the government's wishes.

Orano expressed its willingness to maintain open communication with Nigerien authorities on the matter while reserving the right to contest the license withdrawal in national or international courts.

The company added that mine infrastructure had reopened on June 4, involving dozens of people "to make progress with the work."

Orano stated that Imouraren would eventually create jobs for 800 people, including subcontractors.

The French firm has been operating in Niger since 1971. While the uranium mine at Arkokan closed in 2021, Orano continues to run another uranium mine in the northern region of Arlit despite "logistical" challenges.

Niger, a landlocked country, faces export difficulties due to the closure of its border with Benin, its main access to the sea. The government cites "security" reasons for the closure, which hampers mineral exports.

In 2022, Niger supplied about a quarter of the natural uranium for European nuclear power plants, according to Euratom data. Kazakhstan is Europe's primary supplier, followed by Niger and Canada.

After taking power in July last year, Niger's junta pledged to review foreign mining concessions. The military rulers have also distanced themselves from France, expelling French troops and criticizing the former colonial power while seeking support from Russia and Iran.

In recent years, Chinese, Australian, US, British, Italian, Canadian, Russian, and Indian firms have secured uranium mining licenses in Niger. By 2022, there were 31 prospecting permits and 11 mining licenses.


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