NIGER: the PUMA project receives Certificate of Environmental Compliance

The CONTACT unit, with the PUMA extension indicated in orange – Photos of a similar facility  built in Saudi Arabia by the same supplier

December 28, 2012

On December 24, 2012, the Nigerian government issued a Certificate of Environmental Compliance for the PUMA project, which is being undertaken to increase sulfuric acid production at the SOMAÏR mining site.

A critical project

The ultimate aim of this project is to increase annual uranium production at this site through expansion of heap leaching operations, which will require larger quantities of sulfuric acid to process the uranium ore mined there.

To provide the necessary sulfuric acid while reducing the need for more costly external supplies, AREVA has decided to invest in an additional acid production unit. With a capacity of 100 tonnes a day, or 30,000 tonnes a year, the PUMA unit will supplement the current production of the CONTACT plant, whose output had already been raised to 330 tonnes of acid a day over the past two years.

The process for transforming sulfur into sulfuric acid in the new unit will be similar to the one used at the existing plant: fusion of solid sulfur, filtration and combustion of the melted sulfur, catalytic oxidation of the sulfur with dry air, then simple absorption to transform gaseous sulfur oxide into liquid sulfuric acid.

Moreover, within the framework of the continuous progress policy of AREVA, the PUMA facility will also have a gas washing unit to treat the remaining gases and minimize atmospheric discharges.

Environmental and Social Impact Studies

This project was presented to the Niger government in March 2012. Teams at AREVA and SOMAÏR then went to work on the Environmental and Social Impact Study, which deals in detail with all environment-related aspects of the chemical process.

Submitted to local authorities in late October 2012, the study was also presented at a public hearing and reviewed at a validation workshop attended by representatives of the Environmental Evaluation and Impact Studies Office (BEEEI), government technical departments, NGOs, civil society and local authorities at Arlit and Agadez.

Now that the Certificate of Environmental Compliance has been obtained, construction of the roughly 1,200-sq.-meter plant can finally get under way to bring the plant on line during the second half of 2013.