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For more than 50 years, Niger's mining companies Somaïr and Cominak have been developing value from the country's uranium potential by mining deposits (open-pit or underground mines) located in the northwest of the country in the desert region of the Aïr. Since the 1970s, industrial activity generated by site operations has been a major asset for regional and national economic and societal development. A third site, Imouraren, will be begin operations as soon as market conditions permit.

• In 2017, 2,562 tons of uranium from the two operating mines.
• More than 50 years of mining activity.
• Average grade: 1.9 kg of uranium per ton of ore at the Somaïr mine.
• Average grade: 3.6 kg of uranium per ton of ore at the Cominak mine.
• 1,800 employees, excluding subcontractors.
• Mining companies make purchases from local suppliers amounting to more than €100 million per year.
• In 2014, the mining agreements signed by Somaïr and Cominak were renewed as part of a strategic partnership between Orano and the State of Niger.

Three mining sites in the nigerian desert

Discovered in the late 1950s by the CEA exploration teams, the uranium-bearing zone has enabled an entire uranium mining industry to develop, led by the Somaïr and Cominak mining companies. The Imouraren project, currently paused, will go into production depending on market conditions.

Somaïr, an open-cast mine

Somaïr (Société des Mines de l’Aïr) – 63.4% owned by Orano and 36.66% owned by Sopamin (Société du Patrimoine des Mines du Niger) – operates multiple fields near the city of Arlit. Extracted from an open-pit mine, the ore is treated by heap leaching or dynamic leaching.

• An open-pit horizontal sedimentary deposit, 165-230 feet deep.
• Production capacity of 2000 to 2,500 tons of uranium per year.
• Since the start of operations in 1971, production of nearly 68,000 tons.
• In 2016, the average grade amounted to 1.9 kg of uranium per ton of ore.
Somaïr, vue d'ensemble de la mine Tamgak au Niger Somaïr, Tamgak mine, Niger © Maurice Ascani / Orano



Cominak, underground uranium mine

Cominak (Compagnie Minière d’Akouta) is 34% owned by Orano, 31% owned by Sopamin (Niger), 25% owned by Ourd, and 10% owned by Enusa Industrias Avanzadas SA (Spain). The ore is mined underground before being processed in the site plant.

• A uranium deposit 820-feet deep, with more than 155 miles of galleries.
• Production capacity of 1,332 tons of uranium per year.
• Since the start of operations in 1978, more than 70,000 tons produced.
• In 2016, average content of 8 pounds of uranium per ton of ore.

Imouraren project, the mine of the future

Located about 50 miles south of Arlit and about 100 miles north of Agadez, this deposit, discovered in 1966, contains one of the largest reserves in the world. Following a feasibility study completed at the end of 2007, Orano was awarded an operating permit to mine the deposit in early 2009. However, since 2015, the work to bring the site into production has been suspended and the site has been put “under cocoon”, pending more favourable market conditions. The operating company is 66.65% owned by Orano and 33.35% owned by Sopamin and the State of Niger.
• Site : 193 square miles.
• Reserves of more than 174,000 tonnes of uranium after recovery.
• Annual production capacity of 5,000 tonnes and lifespan of 35 years.
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