Niger Withdraws Operating License of French Nuclear Group at Key Uranium Mine

Niger Withdraws Operating License of French Nuclear Group at Key Uranium Mine
A sign for the Imouraren uranium mine [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]

A rift widens between Niger and France as the country revokes Orano’s license to operate its massive uranium mine.

An important move has been taken by the military administration of Niger by canceling the operating license of the Imouraren uranium mine to French nuclear fuel company Orano. Niger is continuing its efforts to cut connections with France, its former colonial power, and this move is part of that strategy.

In northern Niger, at the Imouraren mine, state-owned Orano was told to stop what it was doing. Significant uranium reserves, estimated at 200,000 tonnes, are a prominent feature of the site. This mine’s uranium is crucial for the nuclear energy and armament industries.

Setting the Scene and Recent Advancements

On Thursday, Orano said that it had been requested to leave the Imouraren site. In an earlier notice, the Nigerien Ministry of Mining threatened to withdraw Orano’s license unless mining operations began by June 19.

Notwithstanding this, Orano insists that operations at the location have just lately resumed. As per the government’s expectations, the corporation has reopened infrastructures to accommodate construction workers. Imouraren mining was supposed to start in 2015, but development stalled when uranium prices dropped after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear tragedy in Japan.

Political Consequences

The choice to withdraw Orano’s license has both economic and geopolitical overtones. Since Niger’s military takeover last year, French relations with Niger have drastically worsened. The newly elected administration has changed its allegiances dramatically, reaching out to Russia and Iran for help more frequently.



Reporting from Abuja, Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera emphasized that the French ambassador’s departure and the

Niger Withdraws Operating License of French Nuclear Group at Key Uranium Mine
Supporters of the military government protest outside the French airbase in Niamey to demand the departure of the French army from the country [File: AFP]
removal of French troops were the beginning of the split with France. It was after this that French military bases in Niger were closed. In an effort to lessen France’s sway in the nation, the newly installed administration has pledged to reevaluate mining concessions granted to foreign companies.

Russian Inquiry on Uranium in Niger

Russian corporations may be interested in the Imouraren location, according to certain signs. Russian companies and mercenaries have reportedly been more active in Niger, which could indicate the beginning of a new alliance. Given this change, Niger’s mining operations and position in the geopolitical arena may be reoriented.

The Orano brand has been associated with Niger since 1971. The Arkokan uranium mine shut down in 2021, while the Arlit mine is still running, despite the logistical difficulties.

Problems with Economics and Logistics

Another level of intricacy is added by Niger’s economic position. About 25% of Europe’s natural uranium comes from this country, making it a major supplier to the continent. Nevertheless, Niger is unable to export minerals due to its landlocked status and the closure of its border with Benin, which was its principal sea access. Concerns over national security have prompted the administration to close the border.

In addition to reserving the ability to contest the license revocation in national or international courts, Orano has indicated a readiness to keep communication lines open with the Nigerien authorities. The government of Niger has chosen not to comment officially on the situation at this time.

In summary,

A watershed milestone in Niger’s attempts to separate itself from France was the termination of Orano’s license at the Imouraren mine. Potentially far-reaching economic and geopolitical consequences may result from this action, which is part of a larger plan to refocus its foreign ties. The current state of foreign investment in Niger’s mining sector could undergo a dramatic shift if Russia decides to pursue the country’s uranium reserves.


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