From Uranium to Democracy: Macron's Visit To Mongolia Explores Diverse Prospect
French President Emanuelle Macron's visit to Mongolia on March 21, 2023, holds significant implications across political, economic, social, and foreign relations spheres. The visit highlights Mongolia's geostrategic importance and France's aim to strengthen its presence in East Asia through the Indo-Pacific Strategy, while also seeking stable uranium sources for its nuclear energy sector.
During the visit, Macron aimed to accelerate operations of the joint venture Badrakh Energy, formed by French multinational Orano and Mongolia's MonAtom, which explores and mines uranium in Mongolia. This partnership would secure a uranium supply for France's nuclear reactors, generate jobs and revenue for Mongolia, and enhance bilateral cooperation. The Mongolian-French joint statement mentioned that a mining investment agreement between Mongolia and Orano would be negotiated and signed later this year unlocking multi-billion dollar Zuuvch Ovoo uranium deposit in Gobi.
However, the development of uranium mining in Mongolia presents challenges and risks, including environmental concerns and community opposition. Previous involvement of Orano (formerly Areva) has raised public backlash, necessitating community engagement through funding local development, education, healthcare, and scholarships.
Macron's visit to Mongolia also holds significance for his foreign policy vision and Europe's pursuit of strategic autonomy. By fostering partnerships beyond traditional alliances, Macron's approach may influence European dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region, shaping Mongolia's position within this context.
Expanding cooperation with France in sectors like green energy and culture can bring economic benefits and international partnerships. However, it is crucial to ensure that uranium mining aligns with sustainable practices and addresses social and environmental concerns.
As Mongolia and France navigate challenges and resistance in their uranium mining endeavors, striking a balance between economic opportunities and social-environmental considerations will be vital for long-term success and sustainable partnership.
Author of this blog is Amar Adiya, Editor-in-Chief of Mongolia Weekly newsletter and a policy and politics analyst.