Niger Cancels License of French Nuclear Firm at Major Uranium Mine

Niger Cancels License of French Nuclear Firm at Major Uranium Mine
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In the midst of shifting geopolitical dynamics, Niger has revoked the license of French nuclear fuel producer Orano.

Removing the operational license of French nuclear fuel supplier Orano from one of the world’s largest uranium mines is a major step toward Niger’s continued independence from former colonial power France, according to the country’s military leadership.

A state-owned company named Orano said on Thursday that it has been instructed to stop mining at the Imouraren site in northern Niger. An estimated 200,000 metric tons of uranium, an essential element for nuclear power and nuclear weapons, are contained in this mine.

Threat from the Government and Reaction from Orano

According to Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera, who reported from Abuja, the Nigerien Ministry of Mining had threatened to revoke Orano’s mining license unless work on the project began by June 19. Orano responded by saying it had just gotten back to work at the site, which included reopening infrastructure to get construction crews back in. According to Orano, these actions were in accordance with the orders of the administration, which came to power after a coup in July of last year.

The original planned start date for mining operations at Imouraren was 2015. But the worldwide fall in uranium prices after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant tragedy in Japan halted these ambitions.

Potential Impact on International Relations and Russian Engagement

There are major geopolitical ramifications to the Nigerien government’s choice to revoke Orano’s license. Following the coup in 2023, ties between France and Niger drastically worsened. Idris of Al Jazeera states that the military administration closed all French bases in the nation after expelling the French ambassador and evicting hundreds of French soldiers.

The new government of Niger is actively courting Russia and Iran for alliances. It appears that French firms are now the target of the government’s vow to examine international mining concessions, which was made after taking office. Along with an uptick in Russian commercial and mercenary activity in Niger, Idris has seen an uptick in Russian interest in the Imouraren site. This raises concerns that Russian interests may be given the canceled license.

Embracing Orano’s Past and Confronting Its Present**

Although Orano’s uranium mine at Arkokan was stopped in 2021, the company has been operating in Niger since 1971. Regardless of the significant logistical hurdles it has encountered, it has persisted in operating its uranium mine in Arlit, northern Niger.

Much of Europe’s natural uranium supply comes from Niger, which accounts for around 25%. The landlocked nation’s only sea access route—its border with Benin—has been closed, creating substantial obstacles to exports. The government has closed the port due to security concerns, which makes exporting minerals more difficult.

After the license was revoked, Orano stated that it will keep lines of communication open with the Nigerien government and that it will pursue legal action on a national or international level to challenge the decision. No immediate statement on the incident has been made by the Nigerien authorities.

**In summary**

A watershed moment in Niger’s economic and diplomatic strategies has occurred with the cancellation of Orano’s license to operate the Imouraren uranium mine. With Niger shifting its focus to new global partnerships, the future of the long-standing French involvement in the country’s mining industry is dubious. Possible new players, such as Russia, are positioning themselves to fill the vacuum created by France, which highlights the larger geopolitical dynamics at work.


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