Managing air, soil and food chain quality
The mining companies SOMAÏR and COMINAK monitor the impact of their activities by regularly measuring radiation levels (radon gas and radioactive dust) in the air. Soil samples are taken to check for any settling out of the atmosphere.
AREVA carries out continual radiological monitoring of the air at and around the mining sites as well as in the towns of Arlit and Akokan.
The regulatory surveillance network is made up of 12 dosimeters (6 within the SOMAÏR perimeter, 6 within the COMINAK perimeter). These dosimeters measure short-lived radioactive decay products of radon 222 and 220. They also measure the volume of dust suspended in the air.
All reference groups (itinerant and sedentary populations) have an annual cumulative dose of less than 1 mSv on average over 5 years, in accordance with Nigerien regulations and international standards.
In addition to these air quality measurements, soil samples are taken from a wide area around the installations to check for atmospheric settling. Finally, all personnel working in the area where tailings are found are subject to individual dosimetry monitoring. No employees have exceeded the prescribed annual limit of 20 mSv.
Managing tailings and dust
Uranium extraction generates very fine, damp sand known as “tailings”. These tailings may contain traces of all original minerals, including non-extracted natural radionuclides. The operations in open-pit mining, which involves the use of explosives and heavy machinery, create dust.
Several techniques are used to reduce the impact of mining activities as much as possible. Tracks are watered regularly to prevent the dispersal of fine particles during mining operations.
Furthermore, since the beginning of operations, the mining companies have stocked the tailings in special areas. Two boreholes drilled in 2007 revealed no underground pollution, and the thick layer that forms on the surface of the tailings as they dry prevents any dust from blowing away and spreading radioactivity.
The monitoring results and other studies show that the tailings do not have a significant impact on the environment at the sites or on the towns of Arlit and Akokan