Issues at Operating Uranium Mines and Mills - Niger
(last updated 13 Apr 2017)
Akouta (Cominak) ·
Arlit (Somaïr) ·
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Areva called to order by NGOs over obligations of transparency regarding uranium mining in Niger
Non-governmental organizations Oxfam, ONE and Sherpa, analyzed the public statements of six French groups - Total, Areva, EDF, Engie, Eramet and Maurel and Prom - regarding their raw materials extraction activities in 2015 in a report published on Thursday (April 13th).
Areva, for its part, "seems far from contributing to its 'just' share" to exploit Niger's uranium, despite a renegotiation of its royalty in Niger in 2014. This country, among the poorest in the world, represents almost 30% of the production of the French group, but it receives only 7% of its payments to the producing countries.
The company would also have paid the country a lower royalty in 2015 compared to 2014, depriving that state of 15 million euros in revenue, and the price of exported Niger uranium would be "largely undervalued" by the local subsidiary of Areva, enabling the latter not to pay taxes on its profits in Niger.
(Le Monde Apr. 13, 2017)
> View Oxfam France press release Apr. 12, 2017 (in French)
> Download report La transparence à l'état brut, Décryptage de la transparence des entreprises extractives , April 13, 2017 (in French)
Activists start court action over 'fraudulent' uranium deal
Activists in Niger have started legal action into a uranium deal in which the country is said to have lost $3.25m.
The scandal, known as "uranium-gate", resulted from a 2011 transaction between French nuclear giant Areva and companies both in Niger and abroad.
There is also a French investigation into some of Areva's business dealings, with aspects related to this deal.
Many people turned up on Friday (Mar. 31) morning outside the court in the capital, Niamey, as representatives of civil society movements arrived to register the court action, the BBC's Himadou Hamadou said.
Their complaint alleges embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, forgery and conspiracy to defraud.
The legal action centres on the allegation that Areva in 2011 bought a stock of uranium from Niger at a discounted price.
(BBC News Mar. 31, 2017)
Niger's parliament to investigate 'uraniumgate' sale
Niger's lower house of parliament voted unanimously on Friday (Mar. 17) to investigate accusations that President Mahamadou Issoufou's former chief of staff improperly participated in the state mining company's purchase of 5.5 million pounds of uranium.
A Nigerien newspaper published documents last month showing a bank transfer in November 2011 for $320 million from an account belonging to state miner Sopamin to an account controlled by an offshore company called Optima Energy.
The bank transfer was signed by Issoufou's chief of staff at the time and current finance minister, Hassoumi Massaoudou, who lawmakers have said had no authority to do so.
At a news conference last month, Massaoudou acknowledged signing the bank transfer but said his involvement in a series of transactions involving the uranium rights, ending in its sale by Sopamin to French state-owned nuclear company Areva, ultimately earned the state a profit.
He also denied suggestions by some lawmakers that some uranium could have been clandestinely sold in the process.
(Reuters Mar. 17, 2017)
Niger launches construction of coal-fired power plant to supply cities and uranium mines in the north
Following the commissioning in 1975 of the coal power plant in Anu Araren, 1000 km north of Niger's capital, Niamey, to supply electricity to the cities in the north as well as uranium plants, Niger has launched a new coal power plant in the Tahoua region.
Fully funded by the US company California Energy Services (SAP), the project covers an area of 30 square kms.
At a total cost of US$ 1.475 billion, the project involves the construction of an open pit mine, the 600-megawatt power plant and electricity lines to take power to the main consumption centres of the country.
(African Manager June 27, 2014)
Turkey to invest into Niger uranium mines
Turkey and Niger on Tuesday (March 11) signed a joint declaration regarding closer cooperation on infrastructure for mining, electricity and solar energy.
During a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, also expressed his country's interest in investing in Niger's uranium supplies.
"Turkey gives importance to uranium of Niger, as a country building a nuclear plant," said Yildiz.
(Turkish Press March 11, 2014)
France to send special forces to protect Areva's uranium mines in Niger
Paris will send special forces to protect key uranium mining sites of French company Areva in Niger, a military source said on Thursday (Jan. 24).
According to LePoint.fr , which revealed the information, special forces previously had never been directly involved in the security of private interests, but the kidnappings at In Amenas, Algeria, have increased the risk factors.
The Ministry of Defence and Areva declined to comment.
Commandos will enhance security at the sites of Imouraren and Arlit, where five of the seven current French hostages in the Sahel were captured in September 2010, the newspaper said.
(Reuters Jan. 24, 2013)
A dozen reservists of the French special forces strengthen security at the sites of French nuclear group Areva in Niger since the hostage-taking of In Amenas (January 16 to 19) in Algeria, sources close to the matter indicated on Friday (Feb. 1).
(Le Monde Feb. 1, 2013)
NGO Sherpa terminates agreement with Areva on health monitoring around its mining sites in Niger and Gabon
On Dec. 18, 2012, the NGO Sherpa announced that it terminates the agreement concluded in 2009 with Areva to conduct health monitoring around Areva's uranium mine sites in Niger and Gabon. Sherpa notes with regret that the arrival of Luc Oursel at the head of the company has lead to a change in the culture of the company in terms of sustainable development.
The NGO finds it inacceptable that compensation was paid only to the families of just two miners of French nationality, while local miners did not receive any compensation at all.
Another concern is the decontamination of the former Mounana mine in Gabon. The cleanup was only partially performed and in a very dissatisfactory way, leaving the neighboring residents still exposed to radation risks.
(Le Monde Dec. 18, 2012)
> View Sherpa release Dec. 18, 2012 (in French)
French and Nigerien activists create anti-uranium network
> View here
Areva to monitor health of Niger uranium mine workers
Areva said on Tuesday (Dec. 6) it would monitor the health of thousands of workers and residents exposed to its uranium mine sites in Niger, bowing to pressure from advocacy groups.
The move comes a year after the French nuclear giant opened a health monitoring centre in Gabon to examine more than 1,000 former miners who fell ill after working in one of Areva's mines there. Areva said it has not yet found a link between any of the workers' health problems and their work at the mine.
"Health observatories have now become a reality in two African countries and Areva wants to extend the health monitoring to all the mines it operates in the world," said Alain Acker, medical director for Areva.
"In case of illness attributable to professional activity, Areva would take responsibility for healthcare up to French medical standards."
The company's doctor who is in charge of workers in Niger, Assane Baraze, said Areva would also review "all cases of deaths reported over the period 1977-2010... to see if there is a link between the deaths and uranium mining."
There is no reliable data on deaths or diseases in the area of Niger's mine sites, which have been in operation for roughly four decades.
(Reuters Dec. 6/7, 2011)
European Parliament commissions study on use of radioactively contaminated material from uranium mines in building construction in Gabon and Niger
Ecologic Institute completes a study commissioned by the European Parliament on the use of radioactively contaminated materials in the construction of residential dwellings in Gabon and Niger. The study in particular examines the practices in the disposal of materials discarded in the mining of uranium in these two countries.
Desk study for Niger for security reasons. Results include:
> View Study on the use of radioactively contaminated materials in the construction of residential buildings in Gabon and Niger (Ecologic Institute)
- Contaminated construction materials have been sold on local markets;
- Groundwater radioactive and contaminated dust accumulates everywhere;
- No workers protection and compensation for occupational illnesses;
- Third Uranium mine is expected to commence operations in 2013;
- Niger is signatory candidate of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
> Download study Potential use of radioactively contaminated mining materials in the construction of residential homes from open pit uranium mines in Gabon and Niger, Nov. 2010 (1.9MB PDF - European Parliament)
> Download Presentation of Mr Sebastian Veit at ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting, Sep. 29, 2010 (3.8M PDF)
> View deposit info: Akouta · Arlit
Yellow Cake truck from Areva's Niger uranium mines tips over in Benin
The French nuclear group Areva said Tuesday (Feb. 14) a truck carrying a chemical used in the uranium fuel process had tipped over in Benin, but there was "no risk" of contamination.
The accident occurred in the West African country on Sunday (Feb. 12) near Dassa, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the capital Cotonou.
The truck was carrying uranate, an oxide used in the process to make nuclear fuel. The chemical has "very low radioactivity", a spokeswoman for Areva told AFP.
A security cordon was set up at the site, and "it was quickly determined that there was no radioactive or chemical threat from the accident, the container stayed attached to the trailer without spilling the cargo", she said.
The truck was set upright on Tuesday morning and was evacuated from the site in the afternoon, and nobody was injured.
"There is no risk for the population or the environment," the spokeswoman said.
(Pulse.ng Feb. 15, 2017)
Three-day strike at Areva's Akouta uranium mine
Workers at French nuclear group Areva's COMINAK uranium mine in Niger launched a 72-hour strike on Monday claiming they had not received the full payment of bonuses for reaching financial targets last year, two unions said.
(Reuters May 2, 2016)
Crust formation on surface of Akouta uranium mill tailings limits hazards, study claims
"This study investigated the evolution of uranium distribution and speciation in mill tailings from the COMINAK mine (Niger), in production since 1978. [...] At the surface, a sulfate-cemented duricrust is formed after evaporation of pore water. This duricrust limits water infiltration and dust aerial dispersion, [...]"
Evolution of uranium distribution and speciation in mill tailings, COMINAK Mine, Niger, by Dejeant A, Galoisy L, Roy R, et al., in: The Science of the Total Environment, aheadofprint, Dec. 31, 2015
Three-day strike at Areva's Arlit mine
The staff of the mine of Somaïr, a subsidiary of Areva nuclear group in Niger on Tuesday (Apr. 7) began a three-day strike to protest against the non-payment of premiums, said a union representative.
(Reuters Apr. 7, 2015)
A court in Niger declared a strike by workers at French nuclear group Areva's Somaïr uranium mine illegal, cutting short a planned 72-hour walk out half a day early, company and union officials said on Thursday (Apr. 9).
(Reuters Apr. 9, 2015)
U.S. military may move Niger drone base to Agadez
The United States is preparing a possible redeployment of its drones in Niger to set up a forward base in the Sahara closer to Islamist militants blamed for attacks across the region, U.S. military and Defense Department officials said.
Washington deployed unarmed surveillance drones in Niger after a French-led military operation last year destroyed an al Qaeda enclave in neighboring northern Mali. Supported by some 120 U.S. military personnel, they operate from a base outside the capital Niamey.
Under the new plan, which is still being assessed by the U.S. military, that base would be relocated to the city of Agadez around 750 km (460 miles) northeast of Niamey.
Civilian and military officials in Niger told Reuters on Tuesday (Sep. 2) that the government had already given its green light to the plan to establish the base in Agadez.
Niger said last year it would welcome the deployment of armed U.S. drones after Islamist launched twin attacks on a uranium mine operated by French nuclear energy company Areva at Arlit and a military barracks in Agadez.
(Reuters Sep. 2, 2014)
Niger activists arrested over planned Areva protest before French president's visit
Transparency campaigners in Niger have been arrested shortly before the French president's visit to Niamey.
François Hollande arrived in the Nigerien capital on Friday (July 18) to discuss the deployment of French troops as part of a strategy for securing the wider Sahelian region. Approximately 10 activists, including Ali Idrissa, the national co-ordinator of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, were arrested at their homes that morning.
The group had held a joint press conference on Thursday (July 17) calling for peaceful demonstrations during Hollande's visit. They are calling for Areva, the French state-owned nuclear company, and the Nigerien government to publish the details of a new uranium extraction contract.
"This goes to show that we're living in a dictatorship," Idrissa said from his office in Niamey after being released. "We wanted to exercise our democratic right to protest. This is really serious."
He said he had been treated well in detention, but was told the police would return to his office after Hollande's visit to take him to court. His fellow campaigners, including the trade union activist Solli Ramatou, remain in detention. Idrissa was unclear exactly how many people had been arrested.
(The Guardian July 18, 2014)
Areva signs uranium deal with Niger, delays new Imouraren mine
French nuclear group Areva agreed to a reduction in tax breaks and a rise in royalty rates at its uranium mines in Niger on Monday (May 26) but said the start of production at its giant new Imouraren mine would be delayed until prices improve.
Under the terms of a long-awaited deal to renew its production agreements in Niger, the state-owned French company also agreed to pay 90 million euros ($123 million) to rebuild the road to its mines in the northern town of Arlit and to invest 17 million euros in a local development project.
Acceding to pressure from President Mahamadou Issoufou's government, Areva pledged to build a new headquarters for its mining operations in the capital Niamey at a cost of 10 million euros. It also committed to naming Niger nationals at the head of its two mines in the country - Somair and Cominak - by 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Niger, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer and one of the world's poorest countries, won its battle to extract higher tax payments from the French group under the terms of a 2006 mining law that reduces exemptions and raises royalties rates.
Under the new deal, which lasts for five years, Areva's rate of mining royalties - a tax based on the market value of the minerals produced - will rise from a current level of 5.5 percent to as high as 12 percent depending on profitability, under the terms of the 2006 law.
(Reuters May 26, 2014)
Niger's cabinet of ministers on Friday (Oct. 10) approved a renewal of French nuclear group Areva's uranium production deal in the West African nation, the government said on Friday, completing two years of often fraught negotiations.
(Reuters Oct. 11, 2014)
Negotiations on Areva's uranium mining license in Niger to continue without fixed deadline
Another deadline has passed without agreement in Niger in the government's ongoing negotiations with the French nuclear company Areva on the renewal of the company's license to operate in the country.
After months of discussions, the mining minister, Omar Tchiana, said last week that Friday would be the final deadline for the two sides to strike a deal. Now it has been agreed that talks will continue without a fixed deadline.
(Reuters Feb. 28, 2014)
Hundreds protest against Areva in Niamey
Hundreds of people protested against what they termed slow and opaque contract negotiations between Niger's government and the French nuclear giant Areva, which operates a uranium mine in the town of Arlit.
Thursday's (Feb. 6) march in Niger's capital, Niamey, was organized by groups accusing Areva of exploiting Niger since it began operations in 1971, leaving the country in poverty even though it is the world's fourth-largest uranium producer.
(AP Feb. 6, 2014)
Hundreds of students protest against any "compromise" in Niger's negotiations with Areva
Hundreds of students protested Friday, January 10 in Niamey against any "compromise" in the renegotiation of a contract between Areva in Niger - a country where the French group extracted 40% of its uranium. Twenty-three NGOs and trade unions have also criticized the opaque relationship between the nuclear giant and the Nigerien State.
The students, who marched from campus to the Nigerien Parliament, defend "the people's sovereignty over its natural resources," said Inoussa Abdouramane, Secretary General of the Union of Nigerien students at the University of Niamey.
(Le Monde Jan. 11, 2014)
Areva's Niger uranium mines shut for maintenance as licence talks continue
French state-controlled nuclear group Areva has closed its two uranium mines in Niger for a month of maintenance while it negotiates with the government over the renewal of its licences, a company spokesman said on Friday (Jan. 3).
Niger, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, is trying to extract increased royalties from the French group, with the mines operating in legal limbo after the expiry of their licences.
Confirming union information, the company spokesman said Areva's Somair and Cominak mines have been closed since mid-December and will remain closed until mid-January.
The mines' 10-year licences expired on Dec. 31, though Niger issued a decree on Dec. 27 that potentially provides a legal framework for them to continue operating for now.
(Reuters Jan. 3, 2014)
Production resumed Saturday (Feb. 1) at Areva's two uranium mines in Niger, which had shut down for weeks for maintenance amid hard-fought negotiations over the firm's tax rate.
(AFP Feb. 2, 2014)
Protesters in Niamey call on Areva to pay more tax for uranium sales
More than 1,000 protesters marched to the offices of Areva in Niger's capital Niamey on Saturday (Dec. 21) to demand that the French nuclear firm pay more taxes in the West African country, police said.
Organisers said that as many as 2,000 people took part in the march, which came as state-controlled Areva was locked in negotiations with President Mahamadou Issofou's government over new 10-year contracts for its two mines in Niger.
Niger wants to increase the royalty tax for uranium from 5.5 percent of sales to as much as 12 percent, depending on profits, in accordance with a 2006 mining law.
Areva says this would make its mines unprofitable.
"Our 2010 constitution gives the Niger people exclusive ownership of natural resources," said Ali Idrissa, coordinator of transparency campaigner ROTAB , which organised the protest.
"It is not down to a company to choose its own tax regime," he said.
The existing 10-year contracts for Areva's Somair and Cominak mines, near the northern town of Arlit, expire on Dec. 31. Sources close to the talks have told Reuters they would be extended for up to three months as negotiations continued.
(Reuters Dec. 21, 2013)
Areva considering early shutdown of Akouta and Arlit uranium mines in Niger, paper
According to French daily Libération, Areva has decided to close COMINAK's Akouta uranium mine within two or three years ahead. The end of Somaïr's Arlit uranium mine would in turn be programmed "within six to eight years". Contacted by Libération, the management of Areva did not refute this information, while citing that the "deadlines are more distant." In official documents published by Areva in 2012, it was planned to operate the two mines for fifteen more years.
In addition to the growing insecurity in the region, the low profitability of the Arlit site could be at the origin of a decision which, if confirmed, would mark a turning point for the French nuclear industry.
Areva meanwhile denied any plans to withdraw from Niger: the closure dates for the mines were subject to market conditions and had not yet been fixed.
(Libération Dec. 9, 2013)
Oxfam denounces unbalanced partnership between Areva and Niger
In view of the ongoing re-negotiations of Areva's mining contracts in Niger, the NGO Oxfam has published a brochure denouncing the partnership between Areva and Niger as unbalanced.
> View Oxfam France release Nov. 22, 2013 (in French)
> View summary of: à qui profite l'uranium? (in French)
> Download brochure: Niger: à qui profite l'uranium? - L'enjeu de la renégociation des contrats miniers d'AREVA , Note d'information Oxfam - ROTAB, November 2013 (510k PDF - in French)
Four French hostages taken in uranium mining town Arlit are released
Four French hostages kidnapped three years ago in Niger have been released, French President Francois Hollande said during a visit to Slovakia.
They were seized Sept. 16, 2010 by an al-Qaeda offshoot near the uranium mine where they worked in northern Niger.
Hollande gave no details about the release.
(Bloomberg Oct. 29, 2013)
Thousands protest in Arlit against Areva
Thousands of people took to the streets in the Nigerien town of Arlit Saturday (Oct. 12) to protest against French uranium mining company Areva and show support for the government in upcoming discussions over what they perceive is an unbalanced partnership.
Thousands of people in Niger protested Saturday against French nuclear firm Areva, which has been mining uranium in the impoverished country for nearly 50 years, one of the organisers said.
"The aim of the protest gathering some 5,000 people is to support the government in its upcoming discussions with Areva on the subject of our uranium," Azaoua Mamane told AFP. Several other sources confirmed the turnout number.
(AFP Oct. 12, 2013)
In a statement released on Oct. 14, 2013, Areva claimed that the demonstration was attended by only around 200 participants.
Niger audits Areva uranium mines, seeking better deal
Niger has ordered an audit of French nuclear group Areva's uranium mines in the West African country as it presses for a better deal in talks over a new long-term contract, Mining Minister Omar Hamidou Tchiana told Reuters.
With the mines' 10-year contract coming up for renewal at the end of this year, Niger wants to increase its tax take and is calling on state-controlled Areva to make infrastructure investments, including a new road to the remote mining region of Arlit, more than 1,000 km north of the capital Niamey.
Areva and Niger have yet to agree on a new production price for uranium this year, as the company presses for a cut, and have rolled over last year's price of around 73,000 [West African] CFA francs [BCEAO] per kilo [111.29 EUR/kg U, or 57.92 US$/lb U3O8] Tchiana said he hoped for a deal at talks next week.
(Reuters Sep. 20, 2013)
Areva restarts uranium production at damaged Arlit uranium mine
France's Areva has partially restarted uranium production at its Somaïr mine in Niger that was damaged in a suicide bomb attack late last month, a company official said on Wednesday (June 19).
Pascal Bernasconi, director-general of Somaïr, said output at the mine had restarted after teams worked around the clock to repair the site's electrical plant, damaged by a car bomb in the May 23 attack.
"We partially restarted production at Somaïr on Tuesday (June 18)," he told Reuters, without specifying what share of output had been restarted. "We will find a way of bring the rest of the plant online."
(Mining Weekly June 20, 2013)
On Aug. 7, 2013, Areva announced that both processing lines are now operational and production has fully resumed.
Production stop at Arlit uranium mine costs Areva EUR 27 million per month
Every month without production costs Somaïr 250 tonnes of uranium per month, corresponding to some FCFA 18 billion (more than EUR 27 million), confirmed Mamadou Dikouma, general secretary of the mining ministry in Niger on Thursday (May 30).
(Le Figaro May 31, 2013)
Areva vows to stay in Niger despite uranium mine attack
French nuclear group Areva will maintain its operations in Niger despite last week's deadly car bomb attack at its uranium mine in the African country, Areva president Luc Oursel said Tuesday (May 28).
(AFP May 28, 2013)
Areva suspends uranium mining operations in Niger after bomb attacks
After the bomb attacks of May 23 in Agadez and Arlit, Areva has decided to suspend its uranium mining operations in the region.
(Deutsche Welle May 27, 2013)
Suicide bombers strike Areva's Arlit uranium mine
Suicide bombers struck a military barracks and a mine run by French nuclear group Areva in Niger on Thursday (May 23), killing and wounding several people in separate attacks.
Military sources said several soldiers were killed in a gun battle with Islamists following a car bomb attack at the barracks in Agadez, the largest town in northern Niger.
Areva said at least 13 members of staff were wounded in another bomb attack at about the same time at the Somaïr uranium mine it operates in the town of Arlit, in Niger's desert north.
(Reuters May 23, 2013)
The jihadist group Mujao (Mouvement pour l'unicité et le djihad en Afrique de l'Ouest) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
(Le Monde May 23, 2013)
A uranium mine in northern Niger run by French nuclear reactor maker Areva is "badly damaged" and has stopped production for the moment after it was attacked earlier in the day, Niger government spokesman Marou Amadou said on Thursday.
Speaking on France Inter radio, Amadou said the crushing and grinding units at the Somaïr mine near Arlit had been particularly hit.
"It's enough to stop the mine for now," he said.
(Reuters May 23, 2013)
Areva has announced the death of one wounded employee. (L'Express May 23, 2013)
Workers on strike at Areva's Akouta uranium mine
Workers at Areva's Cominak uranium mine in northern Niger started a 48-hour strike on Thursday (Apr. 18) to demand the payment of a bonus on the mine's 2012 financial results, union leaders told Reuters.
(Reuters Apr. 18, 2013)
Workers at Areva's Cominak uranium mine resumed their work on April 20, but the unions said that industrial action might resume from April 22, if the company won't increase the bonus payments.
(Reuters Apr. 21, 2013)
Protests in Niger against Areva
Some 2,000 students held a protest in Niger's capital Niamey on Friday (Apr. 5) against French nuclear group Areva to demand their country get a bigger slice of its uranium mining revenues.
Marchers held aloft placards saying "No to exploitation and neo-colonialism" and "No to Areva".
"The partnership in the mining of uranium is very unbalanced to the detriment of our country," said Mahamadou Djibo Samaila, secretary general of the Union of Niamey University Students that organised the protest.
(AFP Apr. 5, 2013)
Niger in negotiations to rebalance partnership with Areva
Niger intends to renegotiate its partnership with the French group Areva for the exploitation of its uranium resources in the direction of rebalancing and looking for other partners, president Mahamadou Issoufou said on Sunday (Feb. 3).
Its mining yields "only 100 million Euros per year," laments the Niger president. "It represents only 5% of our budget, that is not permissible. This is why I asked for a balanced partnership between Areva and Niger."
(Reuters Feb. 4, 2013)
1,600 tonnes of scrap metal from Areva's uranium mines in Niger entered the public domain - with some lots radioactive
About 1,600 tonnes of scrap metal originating from the uranium mine sites of SOMAÏR in Arlit and COMINAK in Akouta (both subsidiaries of Areva) have been released to the public domain. In September 2012, 1,000 tonnes were spotted at a scrap merchant in Arlit. Monitoring performed by the NGO Aghirin'man (with professional equipment provided by CRIIRAD) showed that some lots are radioactive. According to Aghirin'man, the fate of 600 tonnes is unclear at the beginning of 2013. Some part of this scrap metal may have been sold abroad.
The inadequacy of the control of the radioactive scrap metal was first discovered in 2003 already.
> View Niger: ferrailles radioactives provenant des sites AREVA , Jan. 17, 2013 (CRIIRAD - in French)
Questioned by AFP, Areva confirmed that last August drills, scaling machines for tunnelling and other disused tools had been taken out of the Somair and Cominak sites.
"As soon as we were aware (of the practice), we immediately stopped the removal of all scrap from the sites," it said.
"These items had traces of radiological contamination that were of no consequence for public health. Levels of radioactivity were very low, as the tools had only been in occasional contact with the (uranium) mineral, which in itself has a low radioactivity level."
(AFP Jan. 17, 2013)
On December 20, 2012, Areva announced that it has decided to take action through the courts as a result of statements that the group deems to be defamatory with regard to the group concerning its involvement in Niger. This action is being taken against Mr. Stéphane Lhomme in his capacity as President of Observatoire du nucléaire , the author of a press release published on December 11, entitled "Nucléaire/corruption : AREVA offre un avion au Président du Niger... " [Nuclear/corruption: AREVA offers a plane to the President of Niger...].
On Feb. 7, 2014, the 17th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Paris condemned Observatoire du nucléaire to pay penalties of several thousand Euros for "defamation" of Areva. The Observatoire decided to appeal the court decision.
(Observatoire du nucléaire Feb. 7, 2014)
[This court opinion is quite surprising: how can it ever be possible to defame a company that has 181 entries in our Hall of Infamy?]
On Jan. 21, 2015, the Court of Appeal of Paris acquitted Stéphane Lhomme. (Le Monde Jan. 21, 2015)
Areva receives "Pinocchio Award" for environmental impact of its uranium mines in Niger
Areva is one of three companies receiving the defamatory Prix Pinocchio in the category "Dirty Hands, pockets full".
The winners were designated by an internet vote organized by the NGO Amis de la Terre .
The NGO thinks that the group "refuses to recognize its responsibility for the deterioration of the living conditions of people living near its uranium mines in Africa", a charge that was denied by Areva in a statement to AFP.
(AFP Nov. 13, 2012)
Niger considers partnership with Areva "very unbalanced"
Niger's government has rated the partnership with the French uranium mining company Areva as "very unbalanced" and said it wanted to increase the benefits from the mining sector to the population, "particularly through strengthening its participation in the governance of the industry," without elaborating.
(Le Monde Oct. 25, 2012)
Workers strike at Areva's Arlit uranium mine
Workers at Areva's Somaïr uranium mine in Niger started an open-ended strike on Monday (Aug. 20) over labour conditions, a union official said.
"Our strike is open ended and will continue until the management improves our living and working conditions," spokesman Mounkaila Abass told a local television broadcaster.
(Reuters Aug. 20, 2012)
Workers ended a one-day strike at the Somair uranium mine in northern Niger, owned by French nuclear group Areva, as negotiations resumed with management over conditions at the mine, a labour spokesman and a company official said.
(Reuters Aug. 21, 2012)
Workers at Areva's Akouta uranium mine begin 72-hour strike
About 1,200 workers at Niger's Akouta uranium mine owned by COMINAK, a subsidiary of France's Areva, have began a 72-hour strike to demand higher wages, a union official said on Monday (July 9).
Inoua Neino, secretary general of the SYNTRAMIN union, said production had stopped at the over 1,600 tonnes a year mine in the north of the west African nation after the workers downed tools.
"We embarked on a strike after our demand for a 3 percent raise in salaries, even though insignificant, was not met with satisfaction by management," Neino told journalists.
(Reuters July 9, 2012)
Areva condemned for lung cancer death of former employee at Akouta uranium mine:
The social security tribunal of Melun (France) condemned Areva for the lung cancer death of a former employee at its uranium mines in Niger.
The court condemned Areva to the payment of 200,000 Euros plus interest in damages and to the doubling of the widow's pension.
Serge Venel died of lung cancer in July 2009 at the age of 59, after having worked at the Cominak mine at Akokan from 1978 to 1985.
(Le Monde May 11, 2012)
Areva wins appeal against condemnation for lung cancer death of former employee at Akouta uranium mine:
Areva has won the appeal against the decision of the social security tribunal of Melun, as the company holds only a minority interest of 34% in mine owner Cominak.
(Libération Oct. 25, 2013)
Volcanic-like activity near Arlit uranium mining district
Nigerian authorities and France's Areva group have sent experts to investigate eruptions, smoke and fumes spouting from a mountain in the West African nation's northern uranium mining district of Arlit, state media said.
Earlier this week, residents reported two days of activity. Experts dispatched to take samples found cracks in the mountainside and rocks 400 metres away. There were no reports of injuries or damage to mines.
The northeast of Arlit is home to the Aïr mountains, but volcanic activity in the area is long thought to have ended. There were no further details immediately available.
(Reuters Aug. 26, 2011)
Areva releases reply to Greenpeace report on impacts of its uranium mines in Niger
On Feb. 22, 2011, Areva released a reply to Greenpeace's report Left in the Dust on the impacts of its uranium mines in Akouta and Arlit:
> English version: AREVA and Niger: a Sustainable Partnership
> French version: AREVA et le Niger: un partenariat durable
Dam failure of retention basin spills 200 cubic metres of uranium-containing liquids at Arlit mine
On Dec. 11, 2010, a dam failure at a retention basin of the SOMAÏR uranium mill at Arlit caused a spill of 200 cubic metres of liquids containing low concentrations of uranium. The spill extended over 2 hectares of adjacent land.
(Coordination des organisations de la société civile d'Arlit Dec. 17, 2010)
Niger citizens file class action in USA against Areva
A group of citizens of Niger living in the United States has filed class action against the French Group Areva for damages suffered by the State of Niger and the inhabitants of the area of Niger where Areva operates its uranium mines.
According to Arthur Levinson, principal lawyer of the plaintiffs, Areva could have to pay up to Euro 20 billion in damages if the group is pronounced guilty in the lawsuit which will be held in New York.
(Tamtaminfo Sep. 26, 2010)
Seven foreigners, including one Areva employee, kidnapped in uranium mining town Arlit
Seven foreigners, including five French nationals, were kidnapped in Niger's northern uranium mining zone on Thursday (Sep. 16), officials said.
The kidnapping, which includes a French employee of nuclear firm Areva and his wife, raises questions about the security of mine workers in the region, where groups linked to al Qaeda's North African wing operate.
The five others worked for Vinci, whose subsidiary Sogea-Satom is working as a contractor in the region.
The attack happened in the town of Arlit, the first in a recent wave of kidnappings to take place within the mining zone instead of in the remote desert like previous hostage-takings over the past year.
(Reuters Sep. 16, 2010)
Three of the kidnapped foreigners have been released.
(AFP Feb. 25, 2011)
Areva restarts uranium recovery from low grade ores by heap leaching at Arlit
From 1971 to 1988, acid heap leaching hat already been used at Arlit, producing 500 - 600 t U per year, totalling 5,900 t U. The uranium recovery rate achieved was rather low at 50% or less, though. From 1988 to 2009, more than 10 million t of low grade ore have been piled up at the site, with an average grade of 0.08% U.
After conducting tests over several years, Areva now restarts heap leaching with an improved process. A first heap leach pad (176,500 m2) has been prepared that is to receive 1.4 million t of ore per year, from which 500 to 750 t U can be recovered annually, at recovery rates above 65%.
(Source: Heap leaching of low grade uranium ores at Somaïr, by Jacques Thiry, Nicolas Durupt, IAEA Technical Meeting on Low grade Uranium Ore, 29 – 31 March 2010 )
Greenpeace accuses Areva of neglecting health of Nigeriens
French nuclear group Areva is not paying enough attention to the health of workers and inhabitants around its two uranium mines in Niger, Greenpeace said on Monday (Mar. 29).
The environmental lobby group called in a report for an independent radiation study to be conducted around the two mine sites at Arlit and Akokan in the country's northwest and for the area to be decontaminated.
"The people of Arlit and Akokan continue to be surrounded by poisoned air, contaminated soil and polluted water," Greenpeace said.
"With each day that passes, Nigeriens are exposed to radiation, illness and poverty -- while Areva makes billions from their natural resources," it said.
(AFP Mar. 29, 2010)
Protests over circumstances of Areva's uranium mining activities in Niger
A Niger lobby group has vowed to commence squatting in front of the Niamey headquarters of the French mining giant, Areva, to protest against the conditions under which it carries out its uranium exploitation in northern Niger.
The group, branding itself "Areva ne fera pas la loi au Niger " (Areva does not make laws in Niger) accuses the French outfit of wilful contamination through persistent exposure to highly [?] radioactive material, which it says has killed an unspecified number of employees and residents living near the company's mining sites.
(Daily Nation, Kenya, Mar. 5, 2010)
Greenpeace survey still finds excessive radiation levels in Niger's uranium mining towns
In November 2009, Greenpeace visited the uranium mines in Niger and the
neighbouring mining towns of Arlit and Akokan. The mines are operated by
subsidiaries of AREVA, a French nuclear company. During the visit Greenpeace
found dangerous levels of radiation in the streets of Akokan. AREVA had earlier
claimed that these risks had been identified and addressed.
> View Greenpeace International release Nov. 26, 2009
> Download Greenpeace International briefing, Nov. 2009 (239k PDF)
Following Greenpeace's report of radioactive hotspots in the uranium mining city Akokan in Niger, AREVA has confirmed that the radioactivity in the streets of Akokan was unacceptably high. Under pressure from civil society the French nuclear company has taken action to clean up the spots indicated by Greenpeace. (Greenpeace International 5 Jan 2010)
On May 6, 2010, Greenpeace released a detailed report and a video on the Nov. 2009 visit to Niger.
> Download Greenpeace report Left in the dust - AREVA's radioactive legacy in the desert towns of Niger, April 2010, 64 p. (Greenpeace International)
> View Greenpeace video Left in the Dust - uranium mining in Niger (Youtube)
> Download CRIIRAD reports on radiological situation in the vicinity of the uranium mines operated by SOMAÏR and COMINAK in northern Niger
Environmental impacts of coal mining for electricity supply to uranium mines (Niger)
On July 30, 2009, the independent radiation laboratory CRIIRAD found heavy metals and sulfate in water pumped from the bottom of the SONICHAR coal mine and released into the environment. The coal produced in the open pit mine is burnt in the Tchirozérine power plant (2 x 18.8 MW); 85% of the electricity generated is sold to the uranium mines of SOMAÏR and COMINAK.
In view of the new uranium mines to come into operation in the area (in particular Imouraren), coal consumption of the power plant is to increase by a factor of 2.5 from the current 160,000 t per year to 400,000 t in 2011.
> View CRIIRAD release July 30, 2009 (in French)
French court to decide on discrimination of Niger Tuareg by Areva
The Paris magistrates' court is to decide on alleged discrimination of the Niger Tuareg by Areva. An Areva director is accused to have called the French government to help Niger to put down the Tuareg rebellion. The case was brought before the court by Niger civil society group Alhak-en-Akal and German NGO Menschenrechte 3000 e.V. The court decision is expected on September 15, 2009.
(Le Monde June 23, 2009)
On June 19, 2009, Areva and the NGOs Sherpa and Médecins Du Monde concluded an agreement to establish health monitoring stations around Areva's uranium mining sites and a "pluralistic group" for health monitoring.
> View Areva release June 19, 2009 (in French)
> View Sherpa release June 19, 2009 (in French)
> View CRIIRAD's comments, June 18, 2009 (in French)
In 2009, the NGO Sherpa has received Euro 80,000 from Areva to support the field work layed down in this agreement.
(L'Express Jan. 5, 2010)
NGOs urge Areva to respect the environment and the health of the residents at its uranium mines in Niger
On March 26, 2009, NGOs of Niger urged Areva to make provisions for the protection of the environment and the health of the residents in the north of Niger, where the company has been exploiting uranium mines for 40 years.
Such provisions still have not been taken, according to a statement of the Network of Organizations for Transparency and Budget Analysis (ROTAB) .
(AFP March 26, 2009)
> See also CRIIRAD release (in French)
Niger's Tuareg rebels demand share of uranium revenue
Niger's Tuareg-led rebel movement chief said his Niger Justice Movement (MNJ), whose desert fighters have waged a rebellion against Niamey government troops, wants up to 30 percent of uranium revenue to be allocated to the northern region populated mainly by Tuaregs.
Aghaly Ag Alambo blamed successive governments in Niamey for failing to come good on demands agreed by both sides in the 1990s.
(Reuters July 20, 2008)
Niger Tuareg rebels seize 4 French uranium workers
On June 22, 2008, Tuareg-led rebels seized four French employees of the French nuclear group Areva in the north of the West African country, the rebels and the government said.
The rebel Niger Justice Movement (MNJ), whose desert fighters launched a rebellion last year in Niger's uranium-producing northern region, said the French were seized in a commando raid on Areva's COMINAK mine located at Arlit.
MNJ said it had carried out the kidnapping to demonstrate to foreign mining companies that the Niger government could not guarantee the security of their operations in the country, which is one of the world's leading producers of uranium.
(Reuters June 22, 2008)
Niger rebels freed the French uranium company hostages on June 25, 2008. (Reuters June 25, 2008)
Gunmen attack uranium lorry in Niger
Gunmen have killed one civilian and wounded another in an attack on a lorry used for transporting uranium from north Niger to a port in Benin, authorities in the Agadez region said on March 14, 2008.
(AFP March 14, 2008)
On January 23, 2008, the non-profit organizations the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura held an award ceremony in Davos, Switzerland, to expose the world's most irresponsible companies. Areva received the 2008 Public Eye Global Award. In addition, Areva received the 2008 Public Eye People's Award through Internet voting.
The organizations had stated the following Reason for Nomination: "Uranium mining in Niger: mineworkers are not sufficiently informed about health risks, open-air storage of radioactive materials. Workers with cancer are deliberately given a false diagnosis at the company hospital."
> View Public Eye
> See also additional information from CRIIRAD (in French)
Hundreds march in Niger against Areva
Hundreds of people in Niger marched on Sep. 8, 2007, to demand the departure of French nuclear giant Areva, which they accuse of backing a rebellion in the uranium-rich north of the former French colony.
(Reuters Sep. 8, 2007)
Niger civil society claims US$ 640 million from AREVA in damages
Niger's citizen movement "Mouvement citoyen pour la paix, la démocratie et la République" which embraces several civil society organisations, is demanding FCFA300 billion (US$ 640 million) from French mining giant AREVA as damages for the 40-year exploitation of the Niger uranium in "unfair and iniquitous conditions," the chairman of the movement told PANA.
The movement's chairman, Nouhou Arzika said the government would do everything to have AREVA pay what it owes Niger populations.
"For 40 years, the company has exploited more than 100,000 tonnes of Niger's uranium at the detriment of the populations because the conditions of sale were far from addressing the interests of the country," he argued.
(Panapress Aug. 29, 2007)
Head of Areva Niger expelled
Areva confirmed that its head of operations in Niger has been expelled by the country's authorities. "Areva confirms and deplores the decision of the Niger state to expel Dominique Pin, head of Areva Niger," the French nuclear power group said in a statement.
Last week, Pin denied that Areva had given any support to the Touareg rebel group Movement of Niger People for Justice (MNJ), which has been carrying out violent attacks against military targets in the north of Niger for months.
(AFX July 26, 2007)
Niger rebels attack power plant in uranium mining area
Rebels in Niger's remote north attacked the compound of an electricity company that powers the area's towns and uranium mines, but government troops fought them off, rebel and military sources said on July 5, 2007.
Northern rebels have made a series of attacks on government and mining interests in the impoverished West African state, killing 15 government soldiers and abducting over 70 more a fortnight ago in their worst raid yet.
Some 30 wounded soldiers were later released.
In the latest attack, late on July 3, 2007, the rebel Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) said its fighters attacked a compound of state-controlled coal mining and power company SONICHAR, which powers Niger's two uranium firms, both part French-owned.
(Reuters July 5, 2007)
NGOs demand immediate removal of radioactive material found in the streets of Akokan
On May 15, 2007, the NGOs CRIIRAD and AGHIR IN'MAN demanded the immediate removal of radioactive material found in the streets of Akokan. The material, most likely waste rock from COMINAK's nearby Akouta uranium mine reused for road construction, had been identified between March and May 2007. In the street in front of COMINAK's hospital, radiation levels of up to 100 times background were found on contact with the soil.
> Download CRIIRAD release 15 May 2007 (PDF - in French)
> Download CRIIRAD technical note 07-53, 14 May 2007 (PDF - in French)
Niger government probes reports on health hazards from uranium mines
Niger's government is investigating reports that people living near a uranium mine may have been exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity.
Local environmental groups say people near Arlit are suffering from diseases as a result of poor safety measures.
French independent nuclear watchdog CRIIRAD said not enough had been done to seal off radioactive scrap metal.
A commission from the government of Niger is meeting some of the local environmental groups to discuss their concerns.
(BBC News May 30, 2006)
Areva/Cogéma receives rather poor rating for environmental issues at Niger uranium mines
A corporate social responsibility rating of Areva/Cogéma's Niger mining subsidiaries Somaïr and Cominak produced a rather poor Level 2 in the environmental area.
The rating on a 4-level scale (with 4 being the best rating) was performed by rating agency Vigeo .
Level 2 stands for "Prudent: The company is dealing with the risks at a minimal level". The issues of waste management and rehabiliation of the mining sites were major contributors to the rating at this level.
Other areas rated were human rights, human resources, customer and supplier relations, and community involvement, with results in the Level 2 to Level 3 range.
(Areva/Cogéma Nov. 21, 2005)
> Download Summary of Evaluation: English · French (PDF - Areva)
Cogéma launches health study at uranium mine sites in Niger
On Nov. 16, 2005, Cogéma launched a health study on the public living in the Arlit region and in communities near AREVA's uranium mines in Niger.
It centers on a clinical audit of the Arlit and Akokan hospitals and on an epidemiological study.
The fact-finding mission has been entrusted to two organizations specializing in epidemiological studies, Gispe and Quanta Medical.
The study should be finalized by the end of December 2005 and its conclusions will be made public.
(Cogéma Nov. 17, 2005)
CRIIRAD releases studies on impacts of uranium mining in Niger
On April 25, 2005, the independent radiation laboratory CRIIRAD released the results of monitoring performed on environmental samples from the uranium mining region in Niger. CRIIRAD found that
- drinking water samples from two wells had global alpha and beta contamination higher than acceptable by WHO standards. The annual dose from consumption of this water is calculated at 0.187 mSv/year,
- Cogéma's release criteria for contaminated metal scrap are not strict enough to prevent radiation doses in excess of 1 mSv/year,
- the site of a Jan. 23, 2004, road transport accident with uranium ore concentrate was not cleaned up appropriately; one month later, the external radiation at the site was still 10 times background,
- the doses received from inhalation of dust and radon released from the mines and the tailings deposits may exceed 1 mSv/year.
> Download: Impact de l'exploitation de l'uranium par les filiales de COGEMA-AREVA au NIGER, Bilan des analyses effectuées par le laboratoire de la CRIIRAD en 2004 et début 2005, 20 Avril 2005: MS Word · RTF · PDF (in French)
A further report released by the organization Sherpa in cooperation with CRIIRAD et al. investigates the health situation of the uranium mine workers in Niger. It is based on interviews with residents, former workers, and medical doctors.
> Download: LA COGEMA AU NIGER, Rapport d'enquête sur la situation des travailleurs de la SOMAÏR et COMINAK, filiales nigériennes du groupe AREVA-COGEMA, 25 avril 2005: MS Word · PDF (in French)
> View CRIIRAD dossier: Niger: mines d'uranium (in French)
IRSN releases study on environmental impacts of Cogéma's uranium mines in Niger
The French Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) published a study on the environmental impacts of the uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta in Niger. The study, performed at the request of Cogéma, comprised a field trip on May 10 - 15, 2004.
IRSN concludes that the radiation monitoring network set up by Cogéma around the mines and tailings deposits all in all conforms to the standards applicable in France. IRSN recommends some improvements to allow for dose calculations for certain population groups, and to track the dispersion of radioactivity by wind.
Doses were calculated for eight population groups (four at each site). For five groups, they are at 0.5 mSv/year or less, for 2 groups at 0.5 - 1 mSv/year, and for one group they exceed 1 mSv/year (probably caused from radon released from a nearby mine vent). IRSN recommends further measurements to identify the cause of the elevated radon levels.
IRSN confirmed the presence of contaminated scrap metal at the market of Arlit originating from the mines. A first rough dose assessment for the scrap merchants showed doses of the order of 1 mSv/year. IRSN recommends to improve the procedures for release of scrap metal, and to recover contaminated material that has already been released.
In a related release of April 20, 2005, Cogéma announced to launch an epidemiologic study in the area, in cooperation with the ministry of health of Niger.
> View IRSN release April 21, 2005 (in French)
> Download report Sites miniers duranium de SOMAIR et COMINAK (Niger), Bilan de la mission sur site en mai 2004, appréciation de limpact radiologique, et avis sur le réseau de surveillance de lenvironnement, Rapport DEI/SARG/05-05, IRSN 2005, 71 p. (4.1MB PDF, in French)
Associations' network planning independent inspection tour to Cogéma's uranium mines in Niger
The French network "Sortir du nucléaire" (phase out nuclear) is planning to perform an independent inspection tour to the uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta, run by Cogéma's subsidiaries SOMAÏR and COMINAK.
In 2003, the independent radiation monitoring laboratory CRIIRAD had conducted a field trip to these sites, but the investigations were obstructed by local authorities (see below). Following a TV discussion on Nov. 14, 2004, Mme Lauvergeon, the president of Cogéma's parent company Areva, invited the network "Sortir du nucléaire" to visit the sites in Niger. Since the network wants to pay for the tour on its own account, it is now collecting funds for this purpose.
> View "Sortir du nucléaire" release, Feb. 14, 2005 (in French)
Independent radiation surveys at Niger uranium mines obstructed
On December 2 - 11, 2003, the independent french radiation monitoring laboratory CRIIRAD conducted a field trip to Niger to investigate the radiological conditions around the country's uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta. The mines are operated by Cogema's subsidiaries SOMAÏR and COMINAK.
Since all radiation monitoring equipment was confiscated upon arrival at the Niamey airport, only few investigations could be performed. The team noted the nearly total absence of any form of waste management, with the waste rock deposits and uranium mill tailings dumps exposed, releasing radioactive dust into the environment. Moreover, the team noted the absence of effective restrictions for the reuse of contaminated metal scrap by nearby residents.
(CRIIRAD 18 Dec. 2003)
In a press release dated Dec. 23, 2003, Cogema did not dispute the dust hazard from the open pit mines and the waste rock deposits, but claimed that any dose received by residents would meet the 1 mSv/a standard. Metal scrap would only be released into the public domain after radiation checks; Cogema were, however, working on a program to prevent theft of metal scrap.
> View deposit info
Operations suspended at Chinese-owned Azelik mine due to poor economics
On Feb. 17, 2015, CNNC International Ltd announced that its 37.2% owned subsidiary Société des Mines d'Azelik S.A. ('Somina'), has temporarily suspended the production at its Niger mine "due to tight cash flow position" since about mid February 2015. The suspension will involve placing the mine on care.
CNNC International Ltd further issued a profit warning, mentioning "an increase in the losses of the Group in relation to a 37.2% owned associate company, namely, Société des Mines d'Azelik S.A.", among others.
Chinese-owned Azelik mine struggling with high cost and low output
"Since the commencement of production operation, due to the military coup in Niger in 2010, the favourable loan from the Nigerian government has still not been granted, the after effect of Fukushima has caused the uranium prices at low level, in addition, the production process of Somina had encountered multiple difficulties. With issues such as project delays, construction budget exceeded and under production which led to heavy losses and causing default repayment of bank loans. [...]"
(CNNC International Limited: Interim Results Announcement For The Six Months Ended 30th June, 2014, Aug. 26, 2014)
Workers on strike at Azelik uranium mine
Workers went on a 72-hour strike at a China National Nuclear Corp uranium mine (Sino-U) in northern Niger, demanding better wages and bonus payments, trade union officials said on Tuesday (Mar. 19).
Boubacar Mamane, a spokesman for the Syntramines labour union, said 680 workers have downed tools for a three-day strike, which could be extended to an open-ended work stoppage if their demands were not met.
(Reuters Mar. 20, 2013)
Workers extended their strike at a China National Nuclear Corp uranium mine (Sino-U) in northern Niger, urging better wages and bonus payments, a trade union official said on Thursday (Mar. 21).
The 680-strong union had initially called a three-day strike from March 19, but the official said the stoppage was now open-ended due to stalled talks.
(Reuters Mar. 22, 2013)
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