Can Niger’s military junta seize the country’s uranium opportunity? – by Jason Mitchell (BNE Intellinews – July 2, 2024)

Niger — one of the world’s poorest countries — could become considerably wealthier if its uranium resources were fully exploited, but political instability is hampering its development.

The land-locked country’s uranium resources total 311,000 metric tonnes (mt), the third highest in Africa after Namibia (470,000 mt) and South Africa (320,000 mt), according to Statista. It has the continent’s highest-grade uranium ores. In 2022, it produced 2,020 mt of uranium, down from 2,991 mt in 2020, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

By 2022, Niger was the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium but accounted for only 4% of global production, well behind Kazakhstan (43%), Canada (15%), Namibia (11%) and Australia (8%), according to the WNA.

Niger — West Africa’s biggest country by geographic area — has one major mining operation near the city of Arlit, in the country’s northwest. It consists of several open-pit mining sites. It is operated by Somair, a joint venture between Orano, the French state-owned nuclear fuel cycle company, and Sopamin, Niger’s state-owned mining company. The mine is nearing depletion but its operation has been extended until 2040.

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