One of the world’s largest underground uranium mines which has been active in the northern Niger province, Agadez since 1978 carried out its last blast on March 25 and is set to shut down operation Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
The mines operated by French multinational Akouta Mining Company; a subsidiary of Orano Cycle has produced 75,000 tonnes of uranium up to the year 2021. Orano Cycle is the successor to the restructured French nuclear fuel firm Areva.
Although Niger large uranium deposits account for the nation’s main mineral resource – representing 60% of export earnings in 2010, the mines have reportedly become less profitable. Niger’s Ministry of Mines put the company’s accumulated losses from 2017-19 to over 41 billion CFA francs ($73 million).
Philippe Knoche, Chief Executive Officer of Orano, declared that a new era is commencing for the COMINAK mine to which Orano is providing its assistance to ensure a sustainable social, societal, and environmental transition.
The depletion of its resources forcing a shutdown of the Cominak mines will result job cuts for at least 600 workers and 700 subcontractors, leaving mine workers without jobs and a little pay out package equivalent to $35 – $107.
However, the general secretary of the National Mining Union (Synamin) at Cominak, Niou Amadou doubts these packages will be sufficient and able to offer genuine economic recovery for the affected workers and the mining towns.
The company will continue to manage the dismantling and the safety of the site for at least fifteen years in accordance with the commitments made with the Nigerien authorities and the international standards required of this type of operation.
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