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Russia reportedly seeks control of France’s uranium assets in Niger

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear company, has been in discussions with Niger’s military-led authorities regarding the acquisition of assets owned by France’s Orano SA, as per a source in Moscow familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity, Bloomberg reported.

A western diplomat based in the region said that the discussions likely revolved around mining permits. Niger contributed about 4% of global uranium mine production in 2022, according to the World Nuclear Association.

According to Le Monde’s report last year, France has historically depended on Niger for up to 15% of its uranium requirements to fuel nuclear reactors, which contribute to 65% of the country’s electricity production, as per Orano.

European Union utilities relied on Niger, the world’s seventh-largest producer, for about a quarter of their uranium supplies in 2022, as reported by the Euratom Supply Agency.

Since a coup last July removed Niger’s Western-allied leader, the country has joined some other African countries, most of them under military rule, in strengthening security ties with Russia.

In March for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita held discussions regarding security and economic cooperation.

This trend has provided Moscow with an opportunity to pursue access to mining interests as part of its efforts to revive its Soviet-era presence in Africa. Particularly, Russia aims to exploit widespread resentment of France’s longstanding influence in its former colonies.

The extent of the assets Rosatom is seeking in Niger remains unclear, and the discussions have been described as being in the early stages, not yet reaching the negotiation phase.

Orano stated in emailed responses to inquiries that it is unaware of any discussions between Niger and Russian entities. The company emphasized that it has maintained communication with Niger’s new leadership since July.

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