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Niger Reclaims Control Of Uranium Mine From Orano

NIGER has announced that the Imouraren uranium mine, one of the largest in the world, is now under public control after the government revoked the operating licence of French nuclear fuel producer Orano. This move highlights increasing tensions between Niger’s military rulers and France.

Orano had previously stated that it was excluded from the Imouraren mine in northern Niger, emphasising the strained relationship between the West African country and its former colonial power. The Nigerien government confirmed the license revocation on Monday, stating that the Imouraren mine had been returned ‘to the public domain of the state.’

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The government justified its decision by accusing Orano of failing to meet its commitments, despite being issued formal notices by the mines ministry in February 2022 and March 2023.

In response, Orano acknowledged the withdrawal of the license from its subsidiary Imouraren SA. The company claimed it had resumed activities at the site in line with the government’s wishes and expressed readiness to keep communication channels open with Nigerien authorities. Orano also reserved the right to contest the decision through national or international legal channels.

The Imouraren mine, which holds an estimated 200,000 tonnes of uranium used for nuclear energy and weaponry, saw its development halted after the global uranium price collapse following Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Since taking power in a coup in July 2023, Niger’s military leaders have committed to reviewing mining concessions as part of their focus on national sovereignty. The new regime has also broken ties with France and pivoted towards Russia, seeking to expand its influence in the region.

In 2022, Niger supplied about a quarter of the natural uranium used by European nuclear power plants, according to data from the atomic organisation Euratom.

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