Areva Developing Major Uranium Mine in Niger

Mine camp at the Imouraren uranium project site in north-central Niger. Development of the deposit
is expected to cost about $1.5 billion. (Photo courtesy of Areva).
French nuclear company Areva has started construction of what will be a major new uranium mine in north-central Niger, North Africa. The open-pit Imouraren mine will require an investment of about $1.5 billion to reach a production rate of 5,000 mt/y of U308 in about three years. Reserves are reported to be sufficient to support that production rate for 35 years. The operating company will be owned two-thirds by Areva and one-third by the state of Niger.

Areva currently produces about 3,100 mt/y of U308 at two mines at Arlit, Niger.

The Imouraren deposit was discovered in 1966, and following several exploration campaigns, two feasibility studies were done in 1974 and 1983 in preparation for future mining. The project was subsequently called off when uranium prices fell sharply on world markets, and the persistence of weak price levels over the next two decades prevented economically viable exploitation of the deposit.

According to the company, it was not until the mid-2000s and an upturn in the uranium market that it became possible to consider developing the site, which offered a large uranium resource contained in lowgrade ore (an average of 0.8 kg of uranium per ton) that lies between 110 and 170 m underground. After Areva NC Niger (Areva's operating company in Niger) was granted an exploration license on February 7, 2006, teams from the group carried out additional exploration and more precise reconnaissance of the deposit.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 05 -