Orano Mining
Corporate Social Responsibility
Report 2017
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R&D is a strategic element for Orano Mining, enabling us to discover new deposits, improve the profitability of our operations and better control their environmental impact. Within Orano Mining, the R&D and Innovation department is charged with promoting innovation to serve business performance. Currently, R&D and Innovation is conducting work on a portfolio of around 80 individual studies is currently being developed, covering both short-term topics and long-term topics to prepare for the mines of the future.

The innovation program within Orano Mining


The overall R&D and Innovation program is focused on Orano Mining's three strategic priorities, which are:

Innovation at Orano Mining pursues the following goals:

These goals are underpinned by various categories of innovation:

Incremental innovation, which is concerned with improving how our operations work, and comes primarily from sites. It is driven by Industrial Performance.

These incremental ideas regularly give rise to R&D projects for the development of new products, services or processes, such as those for the use of membrane technologies to separate or extract uranium, or the modeling of drilling rigs to better estimate grades.

Finally, there is breakthrough innovation, which is guided jointly by the Strategy and R&D Departments. The aim is to plan ahead to anticipate new pillars in our production strategy, such as our capacity in the future to extract uranium from phosphates, or to make small high-grade deposits in Canada profitable thanks to the patented SABRE technique.

Orano Mining is rolling out the digital transformation plan launched by Orano, the Digital Innovation program features 3 components:

This Digital Innovation program comes as a complement to the four existing R&D and Innovation programs on:

Some numbers R&D


R&D serving the environment

Our mining activities comply with the regulations in force and follow the best practices of the sector as part of a dynamic of continuous improvement. It is our responsibility to control and analyze risks by implementing innovative, scientifically demonstrated solutions in line with the expectations of stakeholders (authorities, associations/NGOs, employees, governments, the scientific community, etc.).

More specifically, the environmental issues on which research efforts are focused include:

  • issues relating to water management and treatment,
  • understanding, predicting and modeling contaminant migration over the long term,
  • anticipating regulatory changes and the requirements of the authorities,
  • developing new sampling and analysis tools to effectively manage environmental impacts.

Since 2014, actions relating to the circulars of July 22, 2009, and August 8, 2013 (the completion of environmental assessments and inventories of mining waste rock reused outside mining sites), and to the French National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Radioactive Waste (PNGMDR) (regarding the stability of dikes, water treatment, the effectiveness of coverings with respect to radon, waste rock stockpile surveys and the study of sedimentary accumulations downstream of sites) have been ongoing, resulting in a number of reports being submitted to the public authorities.

Our expertise, applied on site through close collaboration with operating teams, has been developed thanks to our international teams of researchers and our college of experts, and in partnership with external bodies from academia and the professional world (the universities of Poitiers, Paris VI, Paris VII, Granada, Brussels, Manchester and Washington, and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, as well as the CEA, CREGU and NAGRA).

Envir@Mines program

Our teams of researchers and experts are currently working in the following fields under our « Envir@Mines » research and development program:

  • the long-term future of processing waste in France, Niger and Gabon,
  • the environmental footprint of waste rock in France under the French National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Radioactive Waste (PNGMDR),
  • water treatment, notably in preparation for regulatory changes in France,
  • understanding the long-term rehabilitation of aquifers used for in situ recovery in Kazakhstan and Mongolia,
  • the development of new measurement technologies.

"Envir@Mines" R&D
in figures
  • 13 collaborative partners
  • 8 theses defended
  • 1 Accreditation to Supervise Research (HDR)
  • 122 scientific communications
  • 10 public reports
  • 3 patent applications filed

Operational innovation

Formation « Manager in the Field » "Manager in the Field" training session for the Mining BU Management Committee in Kazakhstan (January 2017)

Through the development of more economical technologies, R&D contributes to improving returns on operations and optimizing mining projects in the portfolio.

Operational excellence

Integration of Operational Excellence principles, such as standards compliance, continuous improvement, teamworking, management on the ground, and benchmarking, are also enabling Orano Mining to remain one of the lowest cost producers and withstand the current difficult market conditions.

Operational excellence

In 2017, Orano Mining continued the deployment of the Orano Excellence System by placing the Manager at the heart of the system. Each of the Operational Excellence training modules is deployed through managerial cascading: supported by Operational Excellence experts, managers deliver training focusing on enabling the teams to build additional competencies and gain in autonomy.

Orano Mining delivered the “Manager in the Field” module firstly to its Management Committee in January 2017 and then to each subsidiary Executive Committee in the course of the year. Managers are trained to set up field visits and observation exercises in order to detect and prevent deviations from the required standards, as well as to encourage a proactive attitude on the part of the teams.

Deployment in Cycles

At the production sites and head office, our Operational Excellence Experts are tasked with:

  • leading and coordinating the Master Plans (annual improvement action plans per entity) established to ensure that the targets set in the Long-Term Mining Plans (the long-term production plans) are met and contribute to the Mining BU's Master Plan,
  • ensuring that the Operational Excellence initiatives are deployed to all Orano Mining subsidiaries, adapting where necessary to local cultural and operational contexts,
  • helping sites steer their day-to-day operational performance and identifying new opportunities to make savings and avoid wastage,
  • facilitating Orano Mining's Operational Excellence upskilling through training and coaching.

We believe that in order to succeed it is essential to ensure that all our teams are mobilized, and that we are thorough in ensuring our everyday work is carried out in strict compliance with standards, regulations and procedures.

Find out more

In 2017, 180 Orano Mining employees received training in the Operational Excellence modules in Kazakhstan, Niger, Canada, Mongolia and France.

Our teams at the heart of innovation

College of Experts

College des experts

Orano Mining intends to mobilize all its expertise to support technological excellence, relying on its experts to achieve this, with a campaign to renew positions every two years. Closely integrated into the operating teams, these experts continually develop their expertise through the conduct of their missions.

The latest campaign was conducted in 2017 and resulted in 53 appointments of experts for Orano Mining scope.

Although the majority of experts are still based in France (55 %), this share is significantly lower than for the previous campaign (69%). Four other countries are now represented: Canada, Niger, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The experts in our mining activities are specialized in disciplines including geology, mining, processing, radiation protection / environment and medicine.

The results of the last campaign show that representation has improved across our sites and internationally. This is in line with the geographic diversity goal set by Orano Mining to better meet the need for specific local knowledge of sites.

In addition, in order to promote operational know-how more actively, a complementary system of "Specialists" has been created within the Group.