NIGER: work on second level starts in SOMAÏR heap leaching project

News brief

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

The SOMAÏR leach pad in February 2012

AREVA began piling up the second level on the leach pad on May 7, 2012, marking a new stage in the SOMAÏR heap-leaching* project begun in 2009. Used by the Group for the first time, the heap leaching technique will allow exploitation of the low-grade ore extracted from the SOMAÏR open pit mine.

Installation of equipment at the second level on May 8 and 9, 2012

The top of the first layer was leveled at the beginning of the year in preparation for this next stage of the project, which is being undertaken in a program launched in 2008 to increase production capacity. With a final height of 30 meters, the heap leaching will have five layers and contain 12,700,000 tonnes of agglomerated ore. The heaping operations will continue until 2017. The heap leaching process will ultimately supply between 25% and 30% of annual yellowcake production.

May 11, 2012: The heaping chain for the second level is in place

Work on the first level began in July 2009 and ended nearly three years later, on May 8 of this year. Six meters high and made up of 27 cells covering a total area of 42 hectares, it contains 3,420,000 tonnes of agglomerated ore. On May 12, workers began piling the ore for the second level on this first one.

The second level is scheduled for completion in late 2014. It will be six meters thick and contain a total of 2,960,000 tonnes of agglomerated ore.

* Heap leaching: The ore from the mine is crushed and agglomerated before being piled up on an impermeable leach pad using mobile grasshopper conveyors and radial stackers. A sulfuric acid solution is then dripped on the heap. This reagent percolates through the ore for several months, dissolving the uranium. The leachate (the solution containing the uranium) is then processed to produce yellowcake.