Leading uranium producer

Mining activities are Orano’s core business. With uranium mines in operation in Canada, Kazakhstan and Niger, Orano is one of the world’s leading producers of uranium, with competitive production costs and extraction techniques at the cutting edge of innovation. Beyond mining, Orano conducts exploration and development projects in uranium-bearing zones, while also undertaking re-development and upgrading of former mines.
SOMAIR Mine, Niger Open pit mine, SOMAÏR, Niger © Maurice Ascani/Orano
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Mining activities, a pillar to the Orano offer

€1,294 M
in sales revenue
33%
of Orano’s sales revenue
3,857
employees
5
mining sites in 3 countries
10,531
tonnes of uranium produced
14%
of the global market

Operating at every stage of the uranium cycle

Committed  to responsible mining, Orano is a major player in the international uranium  industry. Having developed expertise at every stage -- exploration, development production, marketing and  re-development -- Orano is able to supply uranium for power generation to all its clients across the world.

+20
years: the visibility Orano has on production for its customers, thanks to a diversified portfolio of resources and reserves
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Operating on 4 continents to guarantee resource diversity

Responding to growing electricity needs across the world

As the world's nations strive to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, while multiplying electricity production by a factor of two in response to growing demand, nuclear power remains a vital source, alongside renewable energies. Orano contributes by developing nuclear materials that will enable electricity production at a competitive price, particularly in China.

+25%
the expected increase in electricity demand between 2025 and 2015

Orano’s key mining and processing sites

 

Orano mines uranium ore in accordance with the characteristics of each deposit: grade, depth, environmental context, presence of by-products, and local geology.

Exploration for new uranium deposits to ensure sustainable supply

To develop a portfolio of resources and reserves  and  secure 20 years of production visibility, Orano dedicates significant resources to the search for new deposits. The Group carries out continual drilling campaigns, geophysical and geological studies. These make it possible to detect potential uranium  resources and characterise deposits that can become the focus of future mining operations.

Exploration underway include:

  • In Canada: the Athabasca Basin
  • In Kazakhstan: South Tortkuduk
  • In Mongolia: province of Dornogovi and Sukhbaatar
  • In Niger: search for expanding the Grand Artois deposit in Somaïr

Developing profitable mines

It is the development phase  that determines the technical, economic and environmental viability of a mining project.

The key stages of the development process

  • Confirm resources identified by geologists
  • Characterize the deposit and the ore it contains
  • Choose the ore extraction and processing techniques most suitable using an industrial pilot phase
  • Identify and build the infrastructures needed to operate the mine
  • Assess the project’s societal and environmental impact at  the local level
  • Prepare the re-development plan

 

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Cutting-edge technologies to extract and process uranium ore

Multiple mining modes for improved yield

Orano holds expertise in mining for multiple types of mines, open-pit mines for shallow deposits and underground mines for access to deep deposits. The Group is an expert in the in situ recovery technique (ISR) for low-grade deposits; this technique is used only when the ore is located between impervious soil layers, as in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Jet Boring

Innovative techniques for non-conventional mines

The mining experts at Orano develop innovative techniques to exploit non-accessible mines using conventional techniques and to improve the performance of existing mines.

For example, for the Cigar Lake deposit (Canada), where the uranium content is extremely high and soils are saturated with water, Orano has developed a fully-automated hydraulic mining method known as Jet Boring so that not a single miner is in contact with the ore

 

Jet Boring stages

  • Land frozen via a cooling liquid circulating in underground pipelines
  • Ore cut using a high-pressure water jet
  • Ore mixed with water collected and pumped to the surface

The Bessines Mining Innovation Centre (Limousin)

In this internationally renowned laboratory, Orano improves mining processes and conducts research to design new ones.

McClean Lake plant in Canada McClean Lake Plant, Canada © Orano

Uranium ore processing: from leaching to concentration

The ore is crushed immediately upon exiting the mine, then turned into a solution using chemical reactants. This ore treatment process, referred to as lixiviation, precedes the purification stage. The uranium is then extracted from the solution by a precipitation process before being purified, dried and calcined to result in a natural uranium concentrate: yellow cake, which contains 80% uranium (or 800 kg per ton).

Two leaching methods are used depending on the grade and nature of the ore:  

  • Static leaching for low-grade ores: the ore is stored in piles in a sealed zone, and watered with a suitable chemical solution.
  • Dynamic leaching: the process is carried out in a liquid medium, in tanks.

Uranium grades can range from 220g per tonne of ore in Mongolia to 200kg per tonne of ore in Canada
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The issues at stake in re-developing and enhancing former uranium mines

Reintegrating the site into the environment and within the populations

Redeveloping and conducting environmental monitoring on mining sites bring many disciplines into play. A full-fledged area of industrial expertise re-development is taken into consideration from the very start of the mining project and is aimed at limiting the impact on the population and environment to the lowest level reasonably possible.

Re-developing and conducting environmental monitoring on former mining sites requires real know-how. Orano Mining was entrusted with this public service mission by the French State, even when the Group was not an operator, because of its recognised expertise in mining management and its commitment to environmental and  social responsibility.

  • Stakeholder consultation and compliance with international regulations
  • De-commissioning at existing facilities
  • Re-development  and  re-greening at former sites
  • Surveillance both radiological and environmental
  • Managing land restoration projects  
The Bosc mining site in the Hérault in France was remediated from 1998 to 2002. The Bosc site now has a second diversified life: plans for a Technology Park, the Regional Park of Economic Activities and 35,354 photovoltaic panels operated by a subsidiary of GDF Suez. The Bosc mining site in the Hérault in France was remediated from 1998 to 2002. The Bosc site now has a second diversified life: plans for a Technology Park, the Regional Park of Economic Activities and 35,354 photovoltaic panels operated by a subsidiary of GDF Suez. © Orano

Giving a new life to former mining sites

Developing a new life, or restoring, former mining sites is part of Orano Mining's desire to develop its land assets on the territory and help maintain a local socio-economic fabric.

The restoration plan is drawn up following coordination of all the local stakeholders involved. It guarantees former mining sites a future and integrates them  into the region, by developing business operations, recreational activities or conservation for sites with high environmental value.

   

A successful mining site redevelopment project

The mining site in Bosc (Hérault):

  • Redevelopment carried out between 1998 and 2002
  • Site surface area: 220.5 hectares
  • Institution of a solar power plant in 2013
  • 35,354 photovoltaic plants installed, or 13 million kWh
236

former uranium mining sites managed in France
Experience in re-development in France, Canada, the United States and Gabon.

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Orano, a responsible mining player

Orano wants to be an efficient and exemplary player to secure the long-term development of its activities. As a responsible miner, its objective is, in a truly pro-active manner, to manage the social, environmental, societal and technico-economic issues arising from its activities at each stage of the mining cycle, in a sustainable, coordinated  and balanced manner. The Group is a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and is committed to adopting the principles established on the basis of the sector's best CSR practices and to working with other mining players to further advance them.

Water quality monitoring near the ore processing plant McClean Lake Mill plantMcClean Lake Mill plant. Water quality monitoring near the ore processing plant McClean Lake Mill plantMcClean Lake Mill plant. Orano Mining Canada
All mining sites in operation are ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001 certified (Canada, Kazakhstan, Niger) as well as the Bessines plant in France
Gilles Récoché'interview, Safety and Integration Director in the Mining Activities Territories. © Orano
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