Niger withdraws the operating permit for a large uranium mine from the French company Orano

Orano logo at the World Nuclear Exhibition, in Villepinte (Seine-Saint-Denis), June 26, 2018. ÉRIC PIERMONT / AFP

Work had recently been launched on this Imouraren mining site. But Niger decided, Thursday, June 20, to withdraw the operating permit for the uranium mine in the north of the country from the French company Orano, the company announced in a press release sent to Agence France-Presse ( AFP).

“Orano takes note of the decision of the Niger authorities to withdraw from its subsidiary Imouraren SA its permit to exploit the deposit, despite the resumption of activities on site in accordance with the expectations they had expressed”, wrote the French company. In a note dated June 11, the mines ministry of the military regime in power in Niger recalled that the Imouraren operating permit would be withdrawn in Orano. He had announced that he wanted to put it back “in the public domain” if “operational works” had not started in a “three month period” after March 19.

However, on June 12, a spokesperson for the French nuclear group announced to AFP that ” Preliminary activities “ had been launched ” recently “. In its press release of Thursday June 20, the company assured that “infrastructure” of Imouraren were “reopened since June 4, 2024 to accommodate construction teams and advance work”. The French company also specified that “several dozen people were mobilized during the relaunch phase of the project. Ultimately, Imouraren SA was expected to employ 800 people, including subcontractors”.

Second country supplying uranium for European power stations

Orano operates another uranium mine in Niger, Somaïr, in the Arlit region, in the north of the country, after the closure of Cominak in 2021. But the military regime in power in Niamey, since July 2023, has repeatedly repeated that he wanted to thoroughly review the system of exploitation of raw materials on his soil by foreign companies.

Despite this decision by the Nigerien government, Orano assured that it was “willing to keep open all channels of communication with the authorities of Niger on this subject, while reserving the right to contest the decision to withdraw the operating permit before the competent judicial authorities, national or international”.

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The Imouraren mine is one of the largest uranium deposits in the world, with reserves estimated at 200,000 tonnes. Moreover, Niger supplies 4.7% of global production of natural uranium but remains far behind Kazakhstan (45.2%), according to figures from the Euratom supply agency (ESA) for 2021. About a quarter of the natural uranium supply to European nuclear power plants in 2022 came from Niger, on 2e country behind Kazakhstan and ahead of Canada.

The World with AFP

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