Niger’s self-appointed military government has temporarily suspended the granting of new mining licences and will begin an audit of the sector, its mining ministry said on Thursday.

In a statement seen by reporters, the ministry also said it will take stock of existing mining licences as it seeks to boost government revenue.

According to the junta government, the country’s mining industry, which also includes gold and iron ore, is an area of “national concern”.

“We are trying to figure out who holds the mining licences and what reforms need to be implemented in order for the state to increase its profits,” Fatimata Korgom, the Deputy Secretary-General at the mining ministry, said in a voice note shared with reporters by a junta spokesman.

Niger is one of the world’s biggest producers of uranium, a material that is essential to producing nuclear energy. According to data from Mining Technology‘s parent company, GlobalData, Niger was the seventh-biggest producer of the metal in 2022 and accounted for 4% of global production.

France’s Orano, Toronto-based Global Atomic and China Natural Nuclear Corporation are among the companies operating in the country.

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The country was hit with sanctions after a successful military coup in July last year, which resulted in the formation of the current government, leaving the country cut off from the regional bond market.

According to GlobalData, Niger produced around 4.09% of global uranium supplies in 2023. Production increased from 2,193.02 tonnes (t) to 2,220.51t in 2023 but could soon fall again as the coup continues to create geopolitical tensions with Western markets.

Last year, the country was forced to cut its 2023 budget by 40% after its Western allies suspended aid. Niger also recently missed a $38.7m (CFA Fr23.37bn) payment on a commercial bond, bringing the total missed principal and interest payments since the coup to $485m.