French President Emmanuel Macron, as the first French president, visited Mongolia, where he advocated for the mining of uranium, which is essential for powering French nuclear power plants. The project is opposed by some in Mongolia.
France and Mongolia established diplomatic ties in 1965, but Macron is only the first French president to visit the vast country of 3.3 millions of inhabitants. Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh it is French the president Ulaanbaatar received with great ceremony, reports Euronews.
Paris has recently been trying to improve relations with Russia’s neighbors. Macron also recently hosted the presidents of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. French diplomacy wants to strengthen relations “loosen restrictions on Russia’s neighbors and give them a choice“.
The main motive for Macron’s visit is the extraction of uranium. France wants to give up imports from Russia and is already replacing them with uranium from Kazakhstan, Niger and Australia. The next on the list of these countries will obviously be Mongolia, where a French company has been involved in uranium mining in the Gobi desert since 1997, but imports to France so far have been negligible.
The economy of Mongolia relies on the export of natural raw materials, in addition to uranium, also copper, coal, gold, tungsten, tin and rocks, with more than 80 percent of all raw materials imported by China.
Development of two uranium mines in the Gobi
Macron and Khürelsükh are in Ulaanbaatar signed an agreement to accelerate the development of two uranium mines – Dulaan Uul and Zoovch Whoah – with a total capacity of 64,000 tons. France uses about 7,000 tons of uranium annually in nuclear power plants, meeting 40 percent of its energy needs.
The Mongolian mine is expected to operate for the next 30 years and create jobs for 800 local workers.
Nevertheless, they are not enthusiastic about the mine in Mongolia, a Mongolian lawyer told Euronews Khishig–Erdene Gonchig. According to her, Mongolians respect the “holy mother Earth” and oppose similar projects of industrial giants, as was the case with the opening of the Rio Tinto Corporation’s copper mine in March this year.
Harmful effects of uranium mining on health?
A group of local residents, with the help of French activists, also filed a lawsuit against Orano and its Mongolian branch Badrakh Energy due to the harmful effects of uranium mining on health, including causing cancer and spontaneous abortions and deformities in livestock. Orano insists that their extraction method is safe for people and the environment.
French Network of Anti-Nuclear Organizations Sorter du nuclearaire otherwise he claims that this type of extraction method injects into the soil “several hundred tons of sulfuric acid to extract one ton of uranium“, which could contaminate the drinking water in the wells of this desert regions. They add that the pilot projects showed poor water quality, which Orano denies and claims to have carried out the necessary independent studies.
Corruption in Mongolia’s energy sector
According to Euronews, the Mongolian energy sector is subject to corruption. In December last year, for example, several thousand people protested against several members of parliament and company directors who participated in the appropriation of a million tons of coal over the past nine years.
In 2018, French officials also investigated Orano on suspicion of “bribing a foreign public official”, and the company was also suspected of corruption Eurotradia International, which was involved in mining approvals in the Gobi desert. Meanwhile, Orano, according to his own claims, terminated the contracts with Eurotradio.