The IMOURAREN site covers 500 sq. km in the southern Sahara. One of the largest uranium mines in the world.
Characteristics of the project
Discovered by exploration teams from the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in 1966, the IMOURAREN deposit lies 160 km north of Agadez and 80 km from Arlit, at the southern edge of the Sahara and from 1,200 km from Niamey.
• The ore body is between 100 and 150 meters below the surface, with an average grade of 700 grams of uranium per tonne of extracted rock.
• The IMOURAREN deposit will be exploited with an open-pit mine and the ore will be processed using acid heap leaching. It will be the first time this processing method is used for a deposit of this size.
• The feasibility study ended in December, 2007 and was deposited in April, 2008. In the beginning of January, 2009, AREVA obtained the mining permit.
The IMOURAREN Inc. exploitation company was established, held in 66.65% by AREVA NC EXPANSION (86.5% AREVA, 13.5% KEPCO / KHNP) and 33.35% by the State of Niger (10%) and SOPAMIN (23.35%).
• In accordance with the signature of the strategic partnership agreement between the State of Niger and AREVA of Mai 26, 2014, with current uranium prices not sufficient to allow profitable operation of the IMOURAREN deposit, the State of Niger and AREVA will set up a joint strategic committee which will take a decision on the schedule for the start of mining of the deposit depending on changes in the market.
• The preparation works have been then interrupted.
Realized operations & studies
Within the framework of the preparation for the future exploitation of the mine, operations have been already launched.
It is in particular about stripping operations which allows reaching the uranium deposit by extracting rocks lying above, the surface facilities (equipment maintenance shops dedicated to the mining equipment), the construction of the leach pad and ore processing plant.
Other infrastructures have been constructed: administrative buildings, living quarters, airstrip, roads, telecoms and electrical networks…
REALIZED STUDIES TO OPTIMIZE MINING OPERATIONS
Mining experts at AREVA have been working since 2010 to optimize the techniques for exploiting the IMOURAREN deposit, taking into account its specific characteristics. Specialized engineering firms have also conducted numerous studies and laboratory tests to deal with the technical challenges involved.
PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
An eco-design approach is being used in the project. As a result, energy consumption at the future IMOURAREN mine will have than 20% lower than projected in the prefeasibility studies done in 2007.
This approach is based on:
• Optimization of ore conveyor lengths
• Installation of a cogeneration system at the sulfuric acid plant.
The steam generated by this plant will be used to produce 70% of the electricity required for activities at the site.
• Installation of the living quarters near the site, thus reducing personnel transport
To minimize the environmental footprint of the mining operations, three protective barriers are provided at the 260 hectares of storage areas,
• An active barrier (geomembrane liner),
• A passive barrier (layer of compacted clay),
• A leakage detection system.