© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Nigerien security forces launch tear gas to disperse pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy, in Niamey, the capital city of Niger July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Souleymane Ag Anara/File Photo
By Eric Onstad
LONDON (Reuters) – The price of uranium has risen only slightly since a military coup in Niger last week as mining operations have continued in the world’s seventh largest producer of the radioactive metal, but a consultancy said prices may rise in coming weeks.
The spot price of uranium, widely used for nuclear energy and treating cancer, crept up to $56.25 a pound on Monday from $56.15 a week earlier, market research firm and consultancy UxC said on Tuesday.
The price has doubled over the past three years, but is well down from a peak of $140 touched in 2007.
French nuclear fuels company Orano, which operates uranium mines in the West African country, said last week its activities were ongoing despite the coup.
Orano reiterated on Tuesday that operational activities continued despite plans by France to evacuate its citizens, saying 99% of its staff in the country were Nigerien nationals.
The spot price is little changed also because Orano sells uranium on long-term contracts and the summer months are slow in the spot market, said Jonathan Hinze, president of UxC.
“An event like this could take a bit more time to seep into the market psychology. We could very well still see bigger impacts in the days and weeks to come,” he told Reuters.
“All indications would be that this would be a catalyst for upward moves in the uranium price given the overall tight supply/demand balance in uranium at this time.”
The European Union nuclear agency Euratom said on Tuesday it saw no immediate risk to nuclear power production in Europe should Niger cut its deliveries of uranium since utilities in the bloc had sufficient inventories to last for three years.
Niger was the second-largest supplier of natural uranium to the EU last year, Euratom said.
On Monday, the junta that seized power in Niger last week detained senior politicians, including the mines minister, defying international calls to restore democratic rule.