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Niger
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The Nigerien Mining industry is a crucial piece of the Economy of Niger. Niger’s mineral sector accounted for about 3% of the US$10.206 billion GDP and for about 40% of exports. Mineral commodities produced in Niger included cement, coal, gold, gypsum, limestone, salt, silver, tin, and uranium.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a renewed interest in the generation of nuclear energy had led to increased demand for uranium, encouraged investment expansions at existing uranium mines, and promoted exploration. Foreign direct investment in the sector from 2008 to 2012 was projected to be US$1.4 billion, which would double the country’s uranium production capacity. In 2006, Niger was the world’s fourth ranked producer of uranium.

Exploitable deposits of gold are known to exist in Niger in the region between the Niger River and the border with Burkina Faso. Substantial deposits of phosphates, coal, iron, limestone, and gypsum also have been found.

Gold

Exploitable deposits of gold are known to exist in Niger in the region between the Niger River and the border with Burkina Faso. On October 5, 2004, President Tandja announced the official opening of the Samira Hill Gold Mine in Tera Department and the first Nigerien gold ingot was presented to him. This marked a historical moment for Niger as the Samira Hill Gold Mine represents the first commercial gold production in the country. The mine reserves for the Samira Hill mine total 10,073,626 tons at an average grade of 2.21 grams per ton from which 618,000 troy ounces (19,200 kg; 42,400 lb) will be recovered over a 6 year mine life. SML believes to have a number of significant gold deposits within what is now recognized as the gold belt known as the "Samira Horizon", which is located between Gotheye and Ouallam.

Numerous foreign companies, including American firms, have taken out exploration licenses for concessions in the gold seam in western Niger, which also contains deposits of other minerals.

Uranium

The persistent uranium price slump has brought lower revenues for Niger's uranium sector, although uranium still provides 72% of national export proceeds. The nation enjoyed substantial export earnings and rapid economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s after the opening of two large uranium mines near the northern town of Arlit. When the uranium-led boom ended in the early 1980s, however, the economy stagnated, and new investment since then has been limited. Niger's two uranium mines—SOMAIR's open pit mine and COMINAK's underground mine—are owned by a French-led consortium and operated by French interests. However, as of 2007, many licenses have been given to other companies from countries such as Canada and Australia in order to exploit new deposits.

In addition to Paris-based Areva NC, which was the country’s sole uranium producer, at least three companies were exploring for uranium in Niger in 2006. These companies included Bayswater Uranium Corp., a group of companies led by China national uranium Corp., and North Atlantic Resources Ltd.

A group of companies led by China National Uranium Corp. was granted uranium exploration licenses covering the areas of Madaouela and Teguidda in the Agadez region, which is located about 1,000 km northeast of Niamey.

North Atlantic Resources Ltd. (Canada) was granted a uranium exploration license for the 1,963-km2 Abelajouad property, which is located in the Arlit region about 800 km from Niamey.

Coal

The parastatal SONICHAR (Societe Nigerienne de Charbon) in Tchirozerine (north of Agadez) extracts coal from an open pit and fuels an electricity generating plant that supplies energy to the uranium mines. There are additional coal deposits to the south and west that are of a higher quality and may be exploitable.

Mineral Law & Legislation

A new Mining Code was adopted in August 2006 under which the national Mine research Office, whose responsibilities included organizing mining exploration programs, was replaced by two newly established entities: the Geological and Mining Research Center and Société du Patrimoine des Mines du Niger (SOPaMin). SOPaMin is to hold the state’s shares in the existing uranium companies and is in charge of engaging in commercial transactions, such as uranium sales. Since the adoption of the new Mining Code, the government has issued a significant number of new mineral exploration permits. Niger joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2005 and, as part of the EITI efforts, appointed in late 2006 a national consultative committee, which included representatives of the general public.

There are four types of licenses available for companies and individuals interested in exploration and development of mineral resources:

  • Prospecting Authorization: gives the holder the right to search for one or a number of minerals. It is non-exclusive but confers to the holder the rights to first refusal to an exclusive exploration permit within the limits and time validity of the authorization. It is valid for one year, renewable indefinitely for one year periods. Surface and underground prospecting is permitted, as is the use of remote sensing techniques.
  • Exploration Permit: is valid for three-years, renewable for two further three-year periods subject to certain land holding reduction criteria and field works. The area held under a permit cannot exceed 2,000 km² in a rectangular block. An Exploration Permit confers to the holder the right to dispose of any minerals obtained during exploration and test work, and also confers the right to a Mining Permit if a viable reserve is discovered.
  • Mining Permit: will be granted in the case of successful exploration, subject to the right of the Government to participate in the project. A ’small mine’ permit is valid for five years, renewable 3 times for five-year periods, while a ‘large mine’ permit lasts for 20 years initially, renewable 2 times per period of 10 years. Further extensions are possible if commercial reserves remain. Companies applying for Mining Permits must conform to Nigerien Company law.
  • Authorization for Small-Scale Mining: concerns artisanal level of production.

Major Players in the Industry

  • Samira Hill Gold Mine
  • SOMAIR
  • COMINAK
  • China National Uranium Corp
  • North Atlantic Resources Ltd.
  • Societe Nigerienne de Charbon (SONICHAR)

Key Figures

  • Gold production: 5,500 kilograms (2006)
  • Uranium production:3,243 tons (2009)
  • Coal production: 8000 tons (2005)
  • Tin production:1,500 tons (2006)

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