Niger temporarily suspended the granting of new mining licenses, the first step in an audit of its mining sector as it seeks to boost government revenue.
The country will also take stock of existing mining licenses, according to a memo from the mining ministry seen by Bloomberg.
Niger is among the world’s top producers of uranium. France’s Orano SA, Toronto-based Global Atomic and China Natural Nuclear Corporation are among companies operating in the country.
The mining sector, which also includes gold and iron ore, is an area of “national concern,” according to the government.
“We’re trying to figure out who holds the mining licenses and what reforms need to be implemented in order for the state to increase its profits,” Fatimata Korgom, the deputy secretary general at the mining ministry said in a voice note shared by a junta spokesman.
Niger was hit with sanctions following a July 26 military coup that left the country cut off from the regional bond market and froze its accounts at the regional central bank.
The country recently missed a $38.7 million payment on a commercial bond, bringing the total missed principal and interest payments since the putsch to $485 million.
Last year, the country was forced to cut the 2023 budget by 40% after its Western allies suspended aid.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is currently visiting Africa, told Radio France Internationale that all the cooperation suspended by Washington could be put back into play if the junta restored democracy and released ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
(By Katarina Hoije and Baudelaire Mieu)