History of Minerals Industry in Niger
Uranium, the principal source of wealth within the mineral industry of Niger, was discovered in Azelik during 1957 by the French Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minières (BRGM) while they were exploring for copper. Upon this discovery, the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) conducted further research, making additional discoveries including at Abokurum in 1959, Madaouela in 1963, Arlit in 1965, Imouraren in 1966 and Akouta in 1967.
AREVA has been heavily involved in developing the minerals industry and the exploration of Niger's uranium reserves for more than 40 years (as of 2011). It has acted through its two subsidiaries: Compagnie Miniere d'Akouta (COMINAK) since 1974 at the Akouta Uranium Mine and Société des Mines de l'Air (SOMAIR) since 1971 at the Arlit Uranium Mine.
2007 saw the start of Chinese interest in Niger's mineral industry, as CNNC became the lead shareholder of the newly formed joint venture Société des Mines d’Azelik S.A. (SOMINA) The Chinese company reported that the Azelik uranium ore mine produced its first batch of 'yellowcake' (sodium urinate) on 30 December 2010, marking the first international production operation for CNNC.
In 1964 the coal deposit of Anour-Araren was discovered. Following this discovery Société Nigérienne de Charbon d'Anou Araren (SONICHAR) was set up in 1975 to operate the Anour-Araren coal reserves. As of 2011 SONICHAR continues to exploit these reserves to provide electricity for the northern Agadez region, including the uranium mines.
In 2004 Niger opened its first commercial gold mine, the Samira Hill Mine. The joint operation between the government of Niger (20%) and SEMAFO (80%) is still in operation as of 2011. Gold deposits are also present at the Koma Bangou deposit, originally discovered by the Office National des Ressources Minieres du Niger (ONAREM) in 1985. Etruscan Resources Inc. (now owned by Endeavour Mining) subsequently collaborated with ONAREM to assess the commercial viability of the deposit but concluded that it was not feasible to commence production.
- "Uranium in Niger" World Nuclear Association, retrieved 18 April 2012.
- "AREVA NC NIGER: NEW MINING PROJECTS" AREVA, retrieved 10 April 2012.
- "COMINAK: Operation of an Unparalleled Mine" AREVA, retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Uranium in Niger" World Nuclear Association, retrieved 28 March 2012.
- "New Uranium Mining Projects - Niger" Wise Uranium, retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "CNNC’s Overseas Uranium Mine Produced Its First Barrel of Product" China National Nuclear Corporation, retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "SONICHAR Organisational Record" Afdevinfo, retrieved 11 April 2012.
- "Gold Mining in Niger" Mbendi, retrieved 18 April 2012.