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Orano risks losing uranium mining rights in Niger as Russia eyes Imouraren deposit

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French nuclear giant Orano SA may lose its right to mine uranium in Niger by June 19, 2024, after the country rejected its development plan for one of the world’s largest uranium deposits. This comes as Russia has expressed interest in taking over the asset.

Niger’s Imouraren deposit, with estimated reserves of 200,000 tons of uranium, has been under Orano’s control since obtaining the permit 14 years ago. However, delays and unmet expectations have led Niger’s mining ministry to issue a final notice for Orano to comply or face permit revocation.

The political landscape in Niger shifted last year after a coup ousted the Pro-France president, leading to strained relations with France and growing ties with Russia. The country has already expelled French forces and ended a security agreement with the US.

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Orano’s struggle to meet Niger’s requirements could result in a significant shift in uranium supply, impacting France, which relies on Niger for 15% of its uranium needs. The European Union also depends on Niger for a quarter of its uranium, critical for nuclear energy production.

With Russian military instructors now in Niger and the potential for Russian control over Imouraren, the geopolitical implications for uranium supply are significant, posing challenges for Western energy security.

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