Rosatom said it does not intend to acquire the assets of French company Orano in Niger. Rosatom told RBC it “builds its work in foreign markets based on the principles of taking into account mutual interests”. The statement was a response to a report in Bloomberg, citing a source in Moscow familiar with the matter, that Rosatom has had contacts with Niger’s military-led authorities about acquiring assets held by Orano. The source characterised the discussions as being at an early stage having not reached negotiations yet and with the terms of transfer not yet set out.

A Western diplomat in the region claimed that the discussions were likely aimed at mining permits, as, according to the World Nuclear Association, Niger accounted for almost 4% of global uranium mine production in 2022.

Mark Hibbs, a Berlin-based nuclear analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated that “Russia has been stepping up its economic, diplomatic, and military links in Africa, including after the Niger coup, and they see this part of the world as a strategic investment opportunity.”

In the summer of 2023, a coup d’etat took place in Niger overthrowing President Mohamed Bazum. In March of this year, the new authorities broke an agreement with the USA, after which it was decided to withdraw the American troops. France also announced the withdrawal of troops. Also in March 2024, a Niger delegation attended Rosatom’s Atomexpo forum in Sochi.

Rosatom said: “The information published by Bloomberg agency is untrue and is regarded by us as an attempt to destabilise the international uranium market.”

Orano has been operating in Niger for over 50 years, developing deposits in the northwest. It owns controlling stakes in the operations companies of the Somair and Cominak mines, as well as the Imouren project, which has been suspended since 2015. Orano also denied holding talks about a potential deal regarding its Niger uranium assets. Orano stated in emailed responses to inquiries that it is unaware of any discussions between Niger and Russian entities. The company emphasised that it has maintained communication with Niger’s new leadership since July.