SOMAÏR: a growing uranium producer
SOMAÏR, a subsidiary of AREVA, has been mining several uranium deposits in northwestern Niger, several kilometers from the city of Arlit, since 1971. The company intends to gradually increase its annual production to 3,000 tons by 2013.
SOMAÏR (Société des Mines de l’Aïr) was created in 1968. Its capital is held 63.6% by AREVA and 36.4% by SOPAMIN (Société du Patrimoine des Mines du Niger, the Nigerien agency that manages the State’s mining interests).
Production objective: 3,000 tons in 2013
The uranium ore is extracted in open-pit mines at a depth of 50 to 70 meters from a horizontal sedimentary deposit located 7 kilometers northwest of the town of Arlit. The average grade of the uranium ore in this deposit is 2.8‰ (2.8 kg of uranium per metric ton of ore)
From the beginning, the ore has been processed dynamically (crushing, fine grinding, chemical treatment, washing, filtration, drying and packaging) in a plant located near the site. This facility has a processing capacity of about 2,000 metric tons per year. Since 2009, low-grade ore (less than 1‰) has been processed statically using the acid heap leaching method.
Owing to the use of this method, production is expected to increase progressively to 3,000 tons a year, with an objective of 2,910 tons for 2012.
AREVA and Niger a Sustainable Partnership
As the country’s first private employer and main industrial partner for the past 40 years, AREVA is a major stakeholder in the Nigerien economy. Mining activity generates important revenues that have a positive impact on the development of social and public initiatives.
Date of issue : November 2010
In 2011, SOMAÏR produced 2,726 metric tons of uranium concentrate in the form of sodium uranate. Total production since mining began was around 52,700 metric tons of uranium at the end of 2011.
At the current rate of production, mining of these deposits (including deep deposits) can continue for 30 more years.
Mining operations that support local development
Certified to both the ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards, SOMAÏR has been working for several years to improve performance in order to strengthen its competitiveness in the global uranium market.
In keeping with AREVA’s policy, SOMAÏR’s activities create several hundred direct and indirect jobs for the local population. SOMAÏR also contributes to providing health and social services in an isolated region, thus helping to improve living conditions for the population.
SOMAÏR has nearly 1,200 employees, 98% of whom are Nigerien. Its headquarters are in Niamey.
Key dates for SOMAÏR
- 2009 : Start of the facilities to process low grade ore (less than 1kg of uranium per ton of rocks)through heap leaching
- 2008: Renewal of ISO 14001 certification and award of OHSAS 18001 certificate (occupational health and safety)
- 2006-2008: 26 consecutive months of activity with no occupational accidents for SOMAÏR employees (performance unrivalled throughout the entire continent)
- 2005: Start of project to process ore through heap leaching (SOMAÏR Lixi project)
- 2005: Renewal of ISO 14001 certification
- 2004: Feasibility study for Artois deposit
- January 2004: Start of current mining agreement (valid until end of 2013)
- 2002: ISO 14001 certification (sustainable management and environmental protection)
- 2001-2002: Exploration resumed around the mines as part of the Tagora project and discovery of new resources
- December 1999: Start of operations for mining section of Tamou open-pit mine
- March 1996: Start of operations for mining section of Takriza open-pit mine
- December 1995: Leasing of SMTT's mining assets to SOMAÏR by COGEMA (now AREVA)
- December 1994: Extension of the long-term agreement to December 31, 2003
- 1986: Production limited to 1,000 metric tons per year. Sub-leasing of Tassa N'Taghalgué area to SOMAÏR by the SMTT
- 1981: Record production of 2,100 metric tons, with a workforce of 1,600 people, including 158 expatriates
- December 1977: Decision to increase SOMAÏR's production capacity to 2,300 metric tons per year
- October 1973: Decision to increase SOMAÏR's production capacity to 1,500 metric tons per year
- January 1971: Production of first batch of uranate
- June 1968: Leasing (transfer of mining rights) of Arlette area to SOMAÏR
- February 2, 1968: Founding of SOMAÏR
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