French mining sector to become public again


The French minister for industry, Arnaud Montebourg, has announced the creation of a national company of mines aimed at securing the supply of raw materials and exporting French know-how abroad, EURACTIV France reports.

The industry minister kicked off the start of the “mining revival” of France recently during his visit to the largest underground gypsum quarry in Europe, located in the French Val d’Oise.

During his visit, the minister officially announced the creation of the national company of mines of France (CMF).

“It should constitute the parent company for geological know-how, knowledge of sub-soils and the exploitation of mineral resources,” he said.

The stated goal is to “reengage France in the global battle for access to natural resources,” the minister explained, adding that the most important aspect was to regain control over the French mining resources and to secure the supplies.

Even though the details of the future company are not entirely clear yet, its financing will be based both on the 'Agence des participations de l'État' (APE), an agency managing the state’s holdings in different firms, and on the Geological and Mining Research Bureau (BRGM).

They will jointly invest between €200 and €400 million over a period of five to ten years.

In the future, the national company could forge partnerships with the private sector.

“The national mining company of France could eventually be joined by private capital,” Montebourg said, though public investment will have to make up majority of the CMF's funding.

Strategic issue

“The creation of a national company of mines in France will allow us to control the prices, the quantities and our sovereignty. In the past, I have provided a number of mining permits to foreign mining companies because there were no French mining companies. This is now done”, the industry minister said.

For France, the issue is also to secure imports for its large processing industries such as steel and aluminum as well as to ensure its supply of rare metals needed for high-tech industries (telephone, micro-processors, and renewable energies).

Foreign countries’ interest

The future company is not only designed to operate on French territory. The first project discussed by Arnaud Montebourg is the exploitation of French quarries, and then the exploitation of gold resources in Guyana and nickel in New Caledonia.

Many governments in Africa and Central Asia, where the geological bureau is already present, have expressed their interest in French expertise. The new national company will be a holding with subsidiaries in each country where it will operate to forge alliances with public interests.

Furthermore, the minister confirmed the reform project of mining law, which will allow the citizens to take part in decisions pertaining to mining activities. The minister assured that there was “national unity around the mining activity”.

  • By summer 2014: draft proposal for a reform of French mining law

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