COMINAK uranium mine in Niger has collapsed, killing two people and injuring two others. The French nuclear group made the announcement and said the cause was not clear but it occurred during “dismantling” of the mine, which officially stopped producing in 2021 after nearly 50 years because of depleted reserves.
“All site activities have been suspended until further notice and an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances of the accident,” COMINAK said.
Stopes for extraction
Orano owns a 59% stake in COMINAK. Spain’s ENUSA and Niger’s state-run miner SOPAMIN hold 10% and 31% respectively. The COMINAK’s Akouta underground mine’s entrance has two declines (with 20% slope), one to provide circulation to engines and the other for the conveyor belt for the ores. The mines have a maze of tunnels extending over 250 kilometres (160 mi) of combined length and reaching depths of 250 metres (820 ft).
The stopes for extraction run up to 250 metres (820 ft). The Akota mill facility is located next to the mine, which has a sulphuric acid plant for processing, using imported sulphur. The mine produced 1,606 tonnes of uranium metal in 2010, cumulative production of about 61 500 tonnes since 1974. Approximately 1200 people are employed by the COMINAK.
A very productive time, the field is experiencing a significant decline over the past twenty years. Aakouta underground mine has contributed richly to uranium production in Niger, and these ore formations are considered the richest grade in Africa (second only to that of Canada) COGEMA has nearly a 66% share of uranium concentrates. The ore assets remaining in the mines are assessed to last for many decades.