French nuclear group evacuates foreign workers to Niger capital following security threat

The logo with the new company name "Orano" of the French nuclear fuel group Areva is seen on the Areva Tower in La Defense near Paris

NIAMEY (Reuters) - French nuclear group Orano has evacuated 18 expatriate workers from a uranium mining site in Arlit, northern Niger, to the capital Niamey on Friday, following a security threat, a spokesperson for the company said in statement to Reuters.

Orano ceased exploiting uranium at the mine in 2021 due to the depletion of reserves, but plans to operate in the country to retrain workers and remediate the mining site for at least a decade.

The spokesperson did not give details about the security threat but said it occurred in a village halfway between the border with Mali and Arlit, which lies some 800 km (500 miles) to the northeast of the capital.

Vast areas of Mali's arid northern region, near Niger, are controlled by armed militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who in the past have carried out attacks, raids and kidnapped national and foreign workers in the area.

"In accordance with the procedures, and as a precautionary measure, expatriates and missionaries, identified as potential targets at the living base were evacuated under protection to Niamey by plane," the spokesperson said, adding that they would be returned in a few days once the threat was eliminated.

France redeployed most of its anti-terror troops previously based in Mali to Niger last summer where they are helping the Sahel nation tackle insurgents.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)