Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Exploration for uranium began in 1956, resulting in the discovery of a number of deposits in the Aïr region of north-central Niger. There are currently two uranium production centres, one near Arlit processing ore from the Ariege, Arlette, Tamou and Taza deposits and operated by Société des Mines de l'Aïr (Somaïr), and the other at Akouta processing ore from the Akouta and Akola deposits and operated by Compagnie Minière d'Akouta (Cominak). Niger's participation in the producing companies is 36.6% in Somaïr, and 31% in Cominak. Both companies continue to carry out exploratory drilling. In 2005-2006, a number of Canadian and Chinese companies were reported to be interested in obtaining exploration concessions in Niger.
Somaïr has been producing uranium from open-pit operations since 1970, while Cominak has carried out underground mining since 1978. The two companies have current production capabilities of 1 500 and 2 300 tU/yr, respectively. Niger's production peaked at 3 245 tU in 2004 before declining to 3 093 tU in 2005. Low productivity has hampered its competitiveness, despite rising uranium prices. Niger is the world's sixth largest producer of uranium, accounting for 7.4% of global output.
The 2005 Red Book features further radical revisions to Niger's uranium resources, compared with the previous edition. RAR recoverable at up to US$ 80/kgU now stand at 180 466 tU, compared with a figure of 102 227 tU in the 2003 book, whilst IR, in the same cost bracket, now show as 44 993 tU recoverable as against 125 377 tU. PR, also in the same cost bracket, are now put at 14 508 tU compared with 9 534 tU, whilst PR at US$ 80-130 amount to 10 100 tU, against zero in the previous edition. Overall, Niger's uranium resources (up to US$ 130/kgU) now total just over 250 000 tU, compared with around 237 000 tU in the 2003 book.