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It is final, the exploitation of the uranium mine of Cominak; north of Niger; stops today because its reserves are exhausted. A closure that occurs in a global context marked by still very low prices, which undermine the profitability of mines. But China is expected to revive the market in the coming years. </p><div> <p>After 40 years of service, and 80,000 tonnes of uranium produced, Cominak is retiring. Resources are depleted and exploitation is no longer possible, both technically and economically. The next generation in Niger - the continent's second largest uranium producer after Namibia - should have been taken by another mine, that of Imouraren, 160 km north of Agadez. A promising site with reserves estimated at 174,000 tonnes according to the French giant Orano, holder of an operating permit.
But the actual launch of the mine has been postponed for the moment in view of the international context: the cost of extraction is indeed higher than the price of ore on the market. Site surveys are planned for next year to see if innovative mining techniques can be applied to make the project more economically viable.
Prices that are struggling to rise
In the uranium market, the time is still low. Since the Fukushima disaster, prices have fallen and ten years later “uranium demand is still lower than it was before the accident»Confides a nuclear expert. Inventories are otherwise very good, says another analyst, which hasn’t helped push prices up.
Since spring 2020, however, prices have been rising slowly. Combined result of the closure of two mines in Canada – that of Cigar Lake due to the pandemic and that of Mac Arthur since 2018 -, and Chinese demand.
China, the leading consumer of uranium in 2030?
If global demand is now American and European, in the coming years the driving force in this sector will also be China: to implement its carbon neutrality plan by 2060, it is banking on nuclear power. In 2030 it could, if its agenda is met, become the leading market for uranium. According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), this growth in the Chinese reactor fleet associated with the gradual restart of Japanese reactors should increase uranium demand by 17% in 2025 compared to 2015.
Prices should gradually follow the increase in needs. Investors are apparently already in the process of positioning themselves for physical purchases of fuel in anticipation of a recovery. Knowing that uranium, because of its density, has the advantage of being able to be stored very easily.
Source site www.rfi.fr