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A long-anticipated slashing of ties between Niger and France’s energy industry may now be in motion. The Nigerien military junta revoked Orano’s operating permit for the Imouraren uranium mine, a project that has been in the works for many years and was expected to tap into 200,000 tons of uranium reserves before the end of the decade. Orano is France’s state-owned nuclear fuel producer, making it an obvious target of the anti-imperialist movement that has helped Generals in Niger’s Presidential Guard successfully usurp and maintain power in the country after they arrested President Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023. 

French diplomats and military staff have been run out of the country – along with US forces that are now withdrawing – to be replaced with Russian military personnel and paramilitary operators associated with the Wagner Group. This indicates Russia is putting deeper roots down in West Africa, where it has been consolidating its influence for several years. Reports suggest that Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned uranium giant, may have an interest in subsuming Orano’s assets in Niger if the state continues to vacate French claims on them. Uranium is a critical resource for all involved as Niger is Africa’s second-biggest uranium producer, France’s numerous nuclear power plants make it the top exporter of electricity in Europe, and Russia is the world’s leading exporter of enriched uranium.

Related ETFs: Sprott Uranium Miners ETF (URNM), Global X Uranium ETF (URA)

Last Friday, Niger’s military junta revoked the operating permit of Orano, a French state-owned nuclear fuel producer, in relation to a large uranium mine known as Imouraren. That project, which Orano has described as one of the largest uranium reserves in the world, could have yielded 200,000 tons of the metal and was expected to open by 2028. It has been eleven months since the overthrow and imprisonment of the elected Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum, allowing Generals from his own Presidential Guard to seize power over the country. At the time, MRP wrote that the event likely represented a de-stabilizing catalyst for European and American influence in West Africa, and could eventually threaten to disrupt the flow of Uranium to those locales. Bloomberg has reported that Niger is Africa’s second-biggest uranium producer and the leading African supplier for European utilities.

In addition to its processing facilities, we noted last year that Orano operates at three mining sites in Niger. Just one, the Aïr mine in the northwestern region of the country, is currently in production. That mine, several miles north of the Imouraren site, is owned by a joint venture known as SOMAIR – a subsidiary of Orano – but the Government of Niger also holds a minority stake in this business. This is a similar arrangement to the one in place with Imouraren, wherein Orano would own roughly two-thirds of the venture and state-affiliated Nigerien entities would control the remainder. SOMAIR’s mine is the largest uranium mine in the Sahara. Not long before the coup, Orano had signed new contracts with the Nigerien government to extend its uranium mining activity in the country until 2040. This indicates that the company has long-term plans for continued uranium acquisition on the African continent, but these could be severely hindered if Niger’s junta continues its hostility toward Orano’s business.

France is particularly reliant on uranium to fuel its nuclear power capacity, responsible for as much as 75% of the country’s electricity generation. Conflicting figures have been published regarding France’s reliance on Niger, with some outlets claiming…

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