France: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Topics Covered

Welcome to France
Overview of Resources
Metals
Industrial Minerals and Gemstones
Fossil Fuels
Investment
Sources

Welcome to France

France is located in Western Europe. It has several overseas territories, namely, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, and Reunion. The total area of the country is 551,500 km2, excluding its territories. The population of France is 65,630,692 as of July 2011. The country enjoys moderate summers and winters.

The national flag of France.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

France holds a significant place among the European countries and is rich in natural resources including uranium, coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, gypsum, and fluorspar.

France has always been keen on a capitalistic market and the financial crisis of 2008-2009 largely affected its economy. However, the country’s GDP managed to remain in the trillion dollar club in 2011 with $2.246 trillion. This is the third largest GDP in the European Union (EU) after Germany and UK.

France is slowly moving from a mineral producing nation to a mineral processing one. There are hardly any major mining operations in mainland France. Most of the country’s fuel and nonfuel mineral raw materials demand has been met by imports.

Overview of Resources

Stabilization of international minerals and metal pricing in recent times led to an increase in production activities within France.

The key mineral commodities and their production statistics for 2010 are as follows:

  • Ferroalloys, increased by 54%
  • Silicon metal, increased by 40%
  • Alumina, increased by 38%
  • Secondary aluminum, increased by 33%
  • Pig iron, increased by 25%
  • Crude steel, increased by 20%
  • Primary aluminum, increased by 3.1%

French exports to the EU countries in 2010 were as follows:

  • Manufactured metals valued at $7.53 billion
  • Nonferrous metals valued at $4.99 billion
  • Metalliferous ores and metal scrap valued at $4.6 billion

French imports from the EU countries in 2010:

  • Manufactured metals valued at $13.60 billion
  • Nonferrous metals valued at $6.62 billion
  • Metalliferous ores and metal scrap valued at $2.27 billion

The map of France. Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Metals

France’s primary aluminum production increased by 3.1% and secondary aluminum production increased by 33% in 2010 compared to 2009 production. Rio Tinto Ltd. is the top producer of primary aluminum in the country.

Pig iron production increased by 25% to 10.1 Mt and crude steel production increased by 20% to 15.4 Mt.

Vale S.A. of Brazil had invested $34.7 million in its subsidiary Vale Manganese France S.A. located in Dunkerque. The subsidiary unit is designed to produce 140,000 Mt/yr of ferromanganese.

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

Imerys S.A., a major French industrial minerals producer, mined and processed carbonates, feldspar, ball clays, and red clays not only locally but also from deposits in other countries.

Due to a lull in the construction sector in 2010, cement consumption in France reduced by 2.9% compared with that of 2009. The country's two major cement producers are Société des Ciments Français and Lafarge S.A.

Fossil Fuels

France’s crude petroleum production had remained stable through 2010 in comparison to the production in 2009.

There are about 59 active nuclear power plants as of 2010 in France, capable of producing 94.6% of the primary electricity needs in France. In the past, uranium was mined in nearly 210 sites in the country. Uranium ore mining came to an end by 2001 as most of the recoverable reserves were depleted. Environmental monitoring of old uranium mines in France is currently underway.

Investment

The catastrophic 2011 earthquake, subsequent tsunami and nuclear plant leak in Japan has alerted France to take stock of its nuclear plants.

Areva, a nuclear technology company owned by the French government, is working towards redeveloping and replanting mine sites. The company has invested about €300 million to acquire mining units and redevelop them not only in France, but also USA, Gabon, and Canada. The company is also involved with monitoring of these mines. The two main objectives of the monitoring operations are to ensure public health and safety near the sites and to reduce environmental dangers and related issues. Areva has been granted a rehabilitation budget of €4 to 5 million/yr and employs 100 specialists in radiation protection, health, geology and environment operations and performs almost 10,000 analyses per annum.

Even though all these proactive measures are in place, experts believe that the growth of France’s mining sector in the future will also depend on foreign investments and the government’s role in reducing the country’s over reliance on nuclear energy.

France is likely to continue the same trend of importing many of its mineral commodities based on its domestic consumption, as it is more focused on stabilizing its nuclear energy power.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fr.html

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2010/myb3-2010-fr.pdf

http://www.areva.com/EN/operations-673/redevelopment-of-former-uranium-mines-in-france-a-public-service-provided-by-areva.html

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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