The town of Arlit, a desolate settlement on the southern fringes of the Sahara, is the improbable ground zero of a new geopolitical tussle: the fight for the control of uranium, the fuel that powers the nuclear industry. It was there, in the arid ranges of northern Niger, where French geologists found the radioactive mineral in the 1950s.
Since then, French state-owned companies have dug it out from their former colony, transforming Niger into the world’s seventh-largest producer. In 2022, the mines surrounding Arlit accounted for 25% of all European Union uranium imports. Now, a coup d’Etat in the impoverished west African nation has put that flow in jeopardy.