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France to set up state miner

February 21, 2014

France has unveiled plans to set up a state-owned mining company aimed at exploring and exploiting mineral resources abroad. The move is yet another sign of the return of French state intervention in industry.

North Mara Gold Mine in Tansania
Image: DW/J. Hahn

The Socialist government in France was planning to invest up to 400 million euros ($548 million) over the next five to seven years in newly-established state-owned mining company Compagnie National des Mines de France (CMF), French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg announced Friday.

Speaking in an interview for French daily newspaper Le Parisien, Montebourg said the government considered the state as an intelligent economic actor serving the interests of the nation.

Montebourg also said CMF would prospect for resources in France, French overseas territories and elsewhere around the world, including Africa, Central Asia and South America.

“Francophone African countries, notably, would like to work with us rather than do business with foreign multinationals,” he added.

Under the plan, CMF is planned to focus especially on rare earths resources and minerals such as lithium and germanium, as well as on considerable resources of gold in French Guiana.

German Industry’s Concerned about Access to Raw Materials

In the past two centuries, France used to be a major mining nation exploiting its own reserves of hard coal and iron ore. From that era, only metals group Eramet and the uranium business of state-owned nuclear firm Areva have survived.

The founding of CMF, which is France's first state industrial start-up in 20 years, comes amid a renaissance of state intervention in French industry. Earlier this week, Paris agreed to invest 800 million euros to acquire a 14 percent stake in struggling carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, alongside China's Dongfeng. Moreover, Industry Minister Montebourg blocked Yahoo from buying the video streaming start-up DailyMotion from partly state-owned mobile phone company Orange.

uhe/dr (Reuters, AFP)