For more than 50 years, Niger's mining companies SOMAÏR and COMINAK have been developing value from the country's uranium potential by mining déposits 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.  Following the depletion of its resources, the COMINAK underground mine will cease production on March 31, 2021. However, the site's redevelopment and environmental monitoring work will continue for at least 20 years. A third site, Imouraren, will be begin operations as soon as market conditions permit.

Creating the conditions and carrying out actions for the continuity of uranium mining operations in northern Niger is the cornerstone of Orano’s mutually beneficial relationship with Niger.

• In 2019, 2,982 tons of uranium produced by 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.

Three mining sites in the Nigerien 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. COMINAK will stop its production on March 2021 following the exhaustion of its resources. Orano is committed to responsible closure, in close collaboration with the other shareholders of the company. The Imouraren project, currently paused, will go into production depending on market conditions.

SOMAÏR, an open-pitmine

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 more than 70,000 tons. 
Somaïr, vue d'ensemble de la mine Tamgak au Niger The External view of the SOMAIR plant © Maurice Ascani © Orano
SOMAÏR continues to invest to discover new uranium resources and extend the life of the mine. Numerous initiatives have been launched to ensure that the operation of SOMAÏR continues beyond 2035, through technical optimizations and digitization. They help improve the economy, and quality and safety of operations.

COMINAK, underground uranium mine

COMINAK (Compagnie Minière d’Akouta) is 59% owned by Orano, 31% by SOPAMIN (Niger) and 10% by Enusa (Enusa Industrias Avanzadas SA, Spain).

Orano Mining holds 59% of the capital in COMINAK since the end of February 2021 after acquisition of the stake held by one of the historical shareholders, the Japanese company OURD (25%).

COMINAK produced more than 75,000 t of uranium during 47 years of mining at Akouta, Akola and Ebba. Following the depletion of resources, the Board of Directors of COMINAK voted in October 2019 to stop production on March 31, 2021.

Cominak Mine entrance © Maurice Ascani / Orano

In consultation with the Nigerien administrations and its shareholders, COMINAK is leading a project to remediate its industrial site in a responsible manner and communicates continuously and transparently with stakeholders.

Operations to remediate the site are expected to last for at least ten years. Environmental monitoring will continue after completion of the remediation work for a period of at least 5 years, at the end of which a review will be carried out. These works will make it possible to hand back a site that is safe and compliant with national standards, international recommendations and Orano standards in terms of safety and radiation protection.


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% by Sopamin and the State of Niger.
Today Orano is researching new mining methods to improve project’s economics. The Group is planning drilling campaigns in certain areas of the field to test the feasibility of these new innovative methods.
@Maurice Ascani
• Site : 193 square miles.
• Reserves of more than 174,000 tons of uranium after recovery.
• Annual production capacity of 5,000 tons and lifespan of 35 years.
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