Arlit is an industrial town and capital of the Arlit Department of the Agadez Region of northern-central Niger, built between the Sahara desert and the eastern edge of the Aïr mountains. It is 200 km south by road from the border with Algeria. The town had a population of 69,435 at the 2001 census, and an estimated population of 80,000 in 2006.
Founded in 1969 following the discovery of uranium, it has grown around the mining industry, developed by the French government. Two large uranium mines, at Arlit and nearby Akouta, are exploited by open top strip mining. One open pit mine was built in 1971 by the National Mining Company of Niger, SOMAIR. The Second open pit mine, as well as a third underground mine, was built by the French Compagnie Minière d'Akouta (or COMINAK). All the ore from both is now processed and transported by a French company Areva NC, a holding of the Areva group, itself a state owned operation of the French Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA). The system of French nuclear power generation, as well as the French nuclear weapons program, is dependent on uranium mined at Arlit. Areva alone employs 1600 foreign nationals on the site.