Niger’s Uranium Industry in Uncertain Waters Following Military Coup

Niger’s Uranium Industry in Uncertain Waters Following Military Coup

As of July 28, 2023, Niger has suspended its constitution and dissolved all institutions following a military coup that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum. It’s worth noting that Niger is one of the world’s significant uranium producers and holds the seventh position globally in uranium production, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

Uranium is a radioactive metal widely used as fuel for nuclear energy. Additionally, it has applications in treating cancer, naval propulsion, and nuclear weapons.
Niger, possessing the highest-grade uranium ores in Africa, produced approximately 2,020 metric tons of uranium in 2022, which accounted for about 5% of the world’s total mining output. This was a decline from the 2,991 tons produced in 2020. The three largest uranium producers worldwide are Kazakhstan, Canada, and Namibia.

The country’s main mining operation is located in the northern region and is operated by France’s state-owned Orano. Another significant mine was closed in 2021, while another mine is currently under development.

The city of Arlit, in the northwest, hosts several open pit mining sites operated by Somair, a joint venture between Orano and Niger’s state-owned Sopamin. The Akouta Mine, an underground mine near Akokan, southwest of Arlit, produced 75,000 metric tons of uranium from 1978 until its closure in March 2021 due to depleted ore reserves. The mine was owned by Cominak, with 59% ownership by Orano, 31% by Sopamin, and 10% by Spain’s state-owned Enusa.

Another significant deposit, known as Imouraren, lies about 50 miles south of Arlit and holds one of the world’s largest uranium reserves, according to Orano. The mine permit was awarded in 2009, but its development was suspended in 2014 until uranium prices improve.

The current political situation may have implications for the country’s uranium industry and global supply, but as of now, specific details about the impact on uranium production and exports are yet to be disclosed.

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