According to the French Wikipedia article, France had these going from 1953 to 2002, but no mention of the reason of the cessation.

Now most of the material comes from the outside of the country, to my understanding quite notably from Niger, and it may had brought environmental issues (see this French article), is it linked?

  • Was it just because of the low profitability (My guess is that low wages in Africa helps)
  • Or because of bad PR?
  • 1
    @Sjoerd you're right, I did not had the data wrong, I mistranslated Niger !
    – Drenghel
    Jul 5, 2019 at 7:58
  • 1
    @Sjoerd added a ref for the environmental issue
    – Drenghel
    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:05
  • Those environmental problems are not linked to uranium ore, but are linked to it being done in Niger. It's perfectly possible to mine uranium without too much environmental issues, otherwise Canada and Australia wouldn't do it.
    – Sjoerd
    Jul 5, 2019 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


Why did France stop its uranium extraction activities?

Commercial reason

It's cheaper to buy from a foreign site with a higher concentration of Uranium ore than mine it from an inferior mine in your own country.

Uranium ore is very common (40 times more common than silver and 500 times more common than gold) and can be found everywhere on the planet - even in the sea water. The concentration, however, makes some sites more economical than others.

For a price estimate, see e.g. List of countries by uranium reserves, which states:

As of 2015 646,900 tonnes of reserves are recoverable at US$40 per kilogram of uranium, while 7,641,600 tonnes of reserves are recoverable at $260 per kilogram.

France is listed as having zero tons of reserves at $260/kg, while they can buy it for much less.

The top three countries mining Uranium are Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia. This list includes several stable countries on which one can rely for a steady supply.

I bet France would restart it if they felt their supply was threatened.

  • 3
    Your answer seems perfectly valid to me, but I still would like to know if there is any statement (from government officials at the time for example) that confirms this.
    – Drenghel
    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:02
  • 2
    What this answer is missing is an explicit price for uranium from a mine in France and uranium imported from abroad. When you can not find such a price (or at least a trustworthy publication which states that there is a notable price difference) then this answer really just looks like a guess.
    – Philipp
    Jul 5, 2019 at 9:34
  • 2
    @Philipp Added.
    – Sjoerd
    Jul 5, 2019 at 11:20
  • I wonder how long it would take them to restart their supply, if imports would suddenly cease.
    – gerrit
    Dec 19, 2022 at 13:55

Per this article: https://www.azomining.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=92 France essentially depleted its uranium deposits by 2001. Presumably that would be why they stopped mining it, since they ran out.

Also, per this article: https://www.pambazuka.org/governance/french-nuclear-power-fed-uranium-niger France has extensive colonial-era ties and agreements with various previous French colonies in Africa. These agreements have been leveraged into allowing France to mine and import large quantities of uranium from these African nations. Presumably these strong agreements and government ties help France get the best deal on the uranium they need, hence why so much comes from Niger and Nigeria.

As far as your desire for a government statement, I am not sure the government would need to comment on the depletion of a natural resource, that would be self-evident!

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