Niger’s military authorities, who took power in a coup last week, have banned uranium and gold exports to France, with immediate effect.
The decision was announced by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the leader of the newly formed transitional council.
Thousands of junta supporters applauded the move during anti-French protests in the capital, Niamey, and burned French flags.
“We have uranium, diamonds, gold, and oil, and we live like slaves? We don’t need the French to keep us safe,” the portal quoted one of the protesters as saying.
Niger is the world’s seventh-largest uranium producer, accounting for 5% of global output, and it supplies around 15%-17% of uranium used in France for electricity generation.
The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) has stated that Niger was the second-largest supplier of natural uranium to the EU bloc last year.
However, the suspension of supplies from Niger is not an immediate threat to nuclear power production in the EU, as utilities in the bloc have enough uranium stocks to fuel nuclear power reactors for three years.
Experts predict that while the immediate impact of Niger’s uranium export cut on the French nuclear power sector will be insignificant, global uranium prices are likely to rise.
French company Orano, which operates a uranium mine in Niger, is closely monitoring the security situation and offering employees the option to leave the country if they wish.
In response to the security situation, France has announced plans to evacuate French and European citizens from Niamey.
The junta claimed that French security forces assaulted demonstrators supporting the coup and protesting against France’s presence in the country.
The French foreign ministry has denied using lethal force against the protestors.