- A Canadian mining company has announced its discovery of yet another major deposit of uranium in Niger, the world's poorest country. Niger is already ranking as number three amongst the world's major uranium producers, the radioactive metal being among its main export products.
According to Toronto-based Northwestern Mineral Ventures, rock samples collected on its 100 percent owned properties in Niger had confirmed uranium mineralisations at sites earlier identified during an airborne survey. "We are extremely excited that ongoing exploration work has confirmed the presence of uranium on our Niger properties," said Marek Kreczmer of Northwestern.
"These initial rock sample results further validate our belief that In Gall and Irhazer host the structures and sedimentary units that commonly host uranium deposits in Niger. We look forward to commencing a drill programme in the spring to further test these and other targets," the Canadian company's CEO and President added.
While Mr Kreczmer cautions that "the extent of the uranium grades on our properties has yet to be fully revealed," preliminary results from In Gall and Irhazer indicate that the sites were very close to have a potential for commercial mining. Producing mines and deposits in Niger typically grade from 0.1 percent to 0.42 percent uranium oxide - or U(3)O(8). Uranium values found at the few sample sites were up to 0.09 percent.
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), Niger is one of the world's top uranium producers with all of its uranium currently being produced from two mines that are operated by Areva. The Somair mine in Arlit and Cominak in Akouta together produced 3,093 metric tonnes of uranium in 2005, accounting for almost 10 percent of annual global production.
Somair is an open pit mine that, since 1971, has produced more than 40,000 metric tonnes of uranium at an average assay of 2 kg of uranium oxide per ton of ore. Cominak has produced over 48,000 metric tonnes from underground mines, with the average grade ranging from 4.5 to 5 kg of uranium oxide per metric tonne of ore.
Niger recently reached international press headlines as the US government accused it of having sold uranium to Iraq's supposed nuclear arms programme - information that turned out to be a falsification. Indeed, Niger has enjoyed more than thirty years of safe, efficient and smooth uranium mining operations. According to the WNA, Niger's production "appears as an essential component for a suitable stability of world uranium supply, particularly for the European Union."
Poorly endowed with other natural resources, Niger gets an essential contribution to its export income from its significant uranium exports. Gold mining is currently being promoted and production of a few other minerals - including coal mined primarily for local power production - accounts for scarcely 30 percent of mining revenue. The rest is based on uranium.
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