Somair – Uranium Mining in Niger

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Lundin Mining
August 17, 2016
August 8, 2016

Somair – Uranium Mining in Niger

  • Year Founded: Acquired in 1969, beginning of operation in 1971
  • Key Founding Individuals & Executives: Areva, 63.4%; Government of Niger, 36.6%
  • Mined Resources: Uranium
  • Operational Regions: Niger

SOMAIR (Société des Mines de l'Air) is a national mining company located in Niger. It operates in the northern zone of the country, and is one of its two national mining concerns. Akokan and Arlit are the two mining towns of SOMAIR, located in a region known as a uranium extraction area on the southern border of the Sahara desert, west of the Aïr Mountains. This is approximately 1,200 kilometres from Niamey, the capital of Niger. Somair operates in compliance with ISO 14001 certification. The other significant mining company in Niger is called Cominak: it is located close to Somair's Akokan base Like Somair, and like the latter is also a subsidiary company of Areva that is partially owned and controlled by the government of Niger.


Uranium was first discovered at Azelik in Niger in 1967 by the French Bureau of Geological and Mineral Research. The French Atomic Energy Commission started studies of the uranium’s potential and quality. Before this discovery, smaller deposits were found in sandstone formations as early as 1959. SOMAIR was acquired in 1969 and started mining uranium at the Arlit deposit in 1971. It was the first company to operate the Arlit mine. By 2012, the company was producing 3,065 tU/yr.

Company Mission and Vision

As a subsidiary of Areva, SOMAIR is backed by 40 years of experience in the nuclear sector, and is thus operated with optimum safety as a main consideration. As its parent company, the subsidiary fully supports carbon and greenhouse gas reduction programs and adapts operations accordingly with environmental protection as an objective.

The Areva Corporate Foundation is committed to societal and community development in the countries in which it conducts business. The Foundation supports several public interest and humanitarian projects that support targeted and sustainable initiatives focused on health, culture and education.

Founders and Management

Areva is a French company that was established in 1976 as part of the production division of the French government’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). CEA is a group that is active in every stage of the uranium fuel cycle; mining, conversion, enrichment, reprocessing, and recycling. Based in France, Areva has an operational presence in over 30 countries and numbers approximately 19,000 employees. Although Areva has uranium reserves in Niger, Australia, Canada, and Kazakhstan, the company’s uranium mines are only operational in Niger and Canada. The operations in Niger are run as joint ventures with stakeholders of minor shares from foreign investors and the Niger government. The mines account for nearly 10% of the annual production around the world, 30% of the consumption in France, and 32% of Niger’s exports.