May 17, 2020

Areva SA Agrees Deal with Niger to Continue Uranium Mining

Luc Oursel
Areva SA
2 min
Areva SA reaches agreement with government after pledging to pay more taxes and postpone Imouraren project
Nuclear engineer Areva SA has agreed to pay more taxes to Nigers government and suspend a heavily-opposed mine development at Imouraren in order to cont...

Nuclear engineer Areva SA has agreed to pay more taxes to Niger’s government and suspend a heavily-opposed mine development at Imouraren in order to continue extracting uranium from the country for the next five years.

The French group had been planning to open up the mine in the Agadez region in the north of Niger, the world’s fourth-largest uranium producing nation. It is said to hold 109 million tonnes of 0.06 percent uranium, one the country’s largest reserves.

Opponents to Areva’s continuing development plans have claimed that not enough wealth has percolated down to Niger’s citizens since it started operations there in 1971. In a joint statement, Areva and the government of Niger claimed that it would not be profitable to operate the Imouraren mine based on current market prices.

The parties have been locked in talks for two years, failing to reach a deal before the previous 10-year production contract expired last December, requiring its temporary extension.

A joint committee will be established which will monitor uranium prices and decide between them the right time to commence with the operating of Imouraren, which will double Niger’s output. Prices have been continually falling in recent times, down 31 percent over the past year.

Upon signing the agreement, Luc Oursel, President and CEO of AREVA, said: “In the context of a difficult uranium market, AREVA and the State of Niger have succeeded in reaching a balanced and sustainable agreement to pursue their historic partnership.

“I commend this agreement which commits the partners over the long term and affirms the major place held by Niger in the global uranium industry. I am particularly pleased for Niger and for AREVA.”

The Nigerien Minister of State, Omar Hamidou Tchiana, speaking on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Niger, congratulated the negotiating teams for “their commitment over the past few months, working together in a spirit of mutual respect and complete understanding”.

He welcomed the signature of this agreement, which finally marks the establishment of a "balanced partnership" as desired by the President of Niger, Issoufou Mahamadou.

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Jul 20, 2021

British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars

3 min
The ever-increasing need for electric vehicles is mounting pressure on British Lithium as the 2035 deadline inches closer

The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change. 

It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.

British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad. 

Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe 

After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company. 

“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”

Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector. 

Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial. 

Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production

“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”

The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction. 

Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably. 

“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.

“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”

Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK. 

“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”

Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.

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