French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that Mongolia will supply France with critical minerals.

“We have decided to work together to strengthen our energy sovereignty through the supply of critical metals from your country,” Macron stated.

The French president was making his first state visit to the country, following the G7 summit in Hiroshima. Macron also pledged to help alleviate the effects of climate change in Mongolia.

Mongolia is estimated to have billions of dollars worth of mineral resources yet to be mined, but the country has always struggled to capitalise on this. In 2017, however, Mongolia announced more than 20% of the country would become available for critical mineral exploration.

One such critical mineral is uranium.

Mongolia is home to estimated uranium deposits of up to 60,500 tonnes, although none are currently mined. French nuclear energy company Orano is already developing a uranium project in Mongolia, conducting further testing on the site. Orano estimates Mongolia’s uranium deposits to be the 12th largest in the world, and its subsidiary Badrakh Energy holds a trio of mining licences in the country. The Mongolian Government currently holds a 34% stake in Badrakh.

As of now, Badrakh is testing the feasibility of using in situ leaching to recover uranium from the ground. This involves dissolving the minerals in a solution while they are still in the ground before pumping the solution to the surface where they can be recovered.

Macron also pledged to aid Mongolia in cutting down its reliance on coal, exports of which account for around half of all exports from the country and make up a quarter of Mongolia’s GDP. In January, protests swept the capital after widespread corruption was uncovered within the country’s coal industry.

Despite this, the country has maintained the importance of the industry, choosing to negotiate coal sales via the stock exchange as opposed to scaling down its exports.