Niger - Industry



Modern manufacturing accounts for less than 1 percent of the GDP, and mainly consists of soaps and detergents, bottled drinks, and the processing of agricultural products. Two Chinese companies purchased an 80 percent stake in the textiles company, Sonitex, in 1997, and output of Sonitex fabrics totalled 5.6 million meters in 1998. Niger also has a 35,000 metric ton capacity cement plant, and several smaller factories supply local markets with metal goods and construction materials.

Uranium mining began in 1971 in the open desert near Arlit. In 1998 output was 3,561 metric tons per year, making Niger the third largest producer in the world. Mines are operated by Cominak and Somair (two private companies), though the government maintains an interest through the national mining office, Oranem. Technical support is provided by the French company, Cogema, which has a contract until 2003. New agreements from 1995 allow Somair to exploit new reserves at Takriza and Toumou, which total 15,000 metric tons. Cominak and Somair produce roughly 2,000 and 1,000 metric tons per year respectively, but both have suffered from reduced revenue due to the fall in the world price of uranium. As a result Somair has more than halved its workforce to 400, and Cominak is also expected to introduce retrenchments

After positive exploration surveys, gold production is expected to stimulate the mining sector. Revision of the mining code in 1993 to offer a 5-year income tax break for larger companies and no import duty on mining equipment makes a very appealing package for foreign investors, and several companies have moved into the Liptako area. Recent seismic surveys for copper, lithium and molybdenum also produced promising results. Cassiterite is also currently mined at a few small sites.

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