Orano Mining
Corporate Social Responsibility
Report 2017
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Our environmental responsibility is an ongoing commitment firmly rooted in Orano's core values. As such, our actions seek to reinforce mitigation of the risks and management of the environmental footprint of our activities.


FUNDAMENTALS

Orano's Safety & Environment policy

The commitment of Orano Mining's activities is shaped by the Orano group's Safety & Environment policy for 2017-2020. Our teams therefore base their work on meeting current regulatory practices, international standards and the sharing of experience.

At every stage in the lifecycle of a mine, from exploration to site rehabilitation, the objectives of Orano's Safety & Environment policy are monitored by the Mining BU.

Performance in our management of the environmental challenges:

Operational safety:

Safety of facilities:

The group's Safety & Environment policy applies to all entities of Orano Mining, both in France and abroad. Each operational entity deploys it in the form of action plans in accordance with the following commitments:

Certified environmental management system

Work to prevent professional and environmental risks is carried out at most of our mining sites using a management system that meets the requirements of standards ISO 14001 (for the environment) and OHSAS 18001 (for occupational health and safety).

These systems make it possible to set up processes and procedures to control the main risks encountered on sites, prioritize them, monitor them, take corrective action and make improvements.

The systems are audited every year by an external third party.

In 2016, an audit for renewal of the ISO 14001 (Environment) and OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety) certifications was conducted on the Bessines facilities.

The auditors noted a strong improvement in operational control through the good standard of upkeep of the facilities as well as the effective compliance with environmental and occupational health and safety requirements.

The auditors expressed their confidence in the Integrated Management System at Bessines and will therefore be proposing to AFAQ-AFNOR to renew its dual certification to standards ISO14001 v.2015 and OHSAS 18001 v.2007.

Our environmental performance

Throughout the life of the mine, the extraction and processing of uranium ore entail a need for raw materials and natural resources (water, energy, etc.). Our main challenge therefore consists in optimizing consumption and waste over time, and, in looking for possible ways of recovering waste, for a fluctuating uranium production level and taking account of a changing regulatory framework.

The scope of environmental objectives is adjusted depending on: changes in the mapping of risks, the expectations of stakeholders, internal and external best practices, environmental reporting and dialogue with operational entities.

Reporting for the various different environmental indicators presented in this section is carried out using the Orano group's dedicated application. The methods used for the calculation of environmental indicators, as well as the associated reporting procedures are formally set out a "Sustainable Development and Continuous Improvement" measurement and reporting protocol. This protocol, which is updated every year, is sent out to everyone involved in the preparation and reporting of data.

The scope of the reporting encompasses all activities of the Mining Business Unit and all those for which Orano Mining is the operator.

For the financial year 2017, the main developments regarding scope are the following:

2017 RESULTS

Water

A rare natural resource in certain countries where Orano Mining is present, management of water is one of the company's core environmental and social concerns. From the monitoring of the volumes of water taken per source and the optimization of consumption through to monitoring of groundwater quality, the question of water is the subject of constant attention.

There are two distinct qualities of water needed by sites: drinking water and industrial water. The water used for our industrial and mining processes comes from various sources: surface water (lakes, rivers, the sea, etc.), groundwater (aquifers) and mine drainage water (pit water), recycled industrial water. Quantities of water sampled are measured by flowmeters; however, certain points of sampling cannot be equipped with a flowmeter, in which case the quantity is estimated or simulated based on models.

The volume of water consumed has decreased by 11 % compared to our consumption for 2016. This decrease is related, on the one hand, to projects to recycle and optimize water consumption, in particular in Kazakhstan, an area for improvement in which we have been making a sustained effort for several years now; and, on the other hand, to a decrease in activity on some of our sites (Gabon, Namibia) and especially thanks to a new water management system for the towns of Akokan and Arlit.

Indeed, in Niger, the Authorities have developed a new water supply network for the towns of Akokan and Arlit. Just a few months ago, the entire community only used water from the Tarat groundwater, via the catchment and distribution network of the mining companies SOMAÏR and COMINAK. The Nigerien State water company.

The SPEN (Société Patrimoine Eau du Niger), has excavated new wells in the Téloua water table to supply the town that has grown up around the mines with water. This approach allows the towns to be independent of the mining companies for their water supply, and also makes it possible to reduce the amount of water taken up from the Tarat water table.

Concrete actions to reduce our water consumption and monitor groundwater quality

  • In Kazakhstan

Since 2013 the recycling of effluents has been rendered sustainable at the KATCO plant. The main idea was to recycle a part of the effluents in the process at section 300 (the uranium elution process area) in order to capture the residual reagents present in the solution and to reuse them in the process before returning them to the wellfield: the project therefore makes it possible to limit the addition of new reagents and industrial water and thereby reduce the environmental footprint of the uranium extraction process (less industrial water used).

Treatment process at the KATCO plant after the project

Since this process has been implemented, we have seen a downward trend in water consumption at the KATCO site. There has been a reduction of 15 % compared to 2014, even though 2016 was a year of exceptional maintenance work at the plant which generated high water consumption.

  • In Niger

Since 2003, for Niger, a Mining BU working group called "Aman" has been carrying out periodic additional monitoring campaigns on a wider scale than those conducted by site operators. The working group is mainly composed of geologists and mining hydrogeologists, with the support of environmental specialists. Its aim is to construct a model of the water resources, to refine our understanding of the regional hydrogeology and guarantee the quality of supply to sites and nearby towns.

In 2017, the working group continued its work, carrying out:

  • regional monitoring of the impact of our activity on groundwater on behalf of the mining companies,
  • monitoring of the drinking water network,
  • centralization of all hydrogeological data and appraisals in order to monitor changes in the water resources,
  • support for the coordination of the societal initiatives conducted by the mining companies for the sampling and conditioning of water samples on newly drilled boreholes for the benefit of the local population in the communes of the department of Arlit.

An example of a concrete plan of action put into practice at SOMAÏR

SOMAÏR's objective for 2017 was to decrease consumption of drinking water from the urban water supply by 10 % compared to 2016 and to decrease the consumption of industrial water at the plant by 3 % compared to 2016.

In the urban area, an analysis of leaks from pipes and water ducts, as well as more frequent water consumption readings, made it possible to achieve a reduction of 7 %.

In the industrial area, the optimization of dynamic processing made it possible to achieve an 18 % reduction in water consumption.

Energy

Whether it originates from fossil fuels or renewable sources, the energy consumed by the different Business Unit Mines' sites is monitored on a constant basis. The goal: to continue to reduce consumption.

Overall, energy consumption has stabilized over the last two years, with a ratio of 54 MWh/metric ton of uranium, even if the climatic conditions in 2017 made reductions harder to achieve, in particular in Canada (low temperatures, number of days of heating, etc.).

Improving the energy efficiency of sites and reducing GHG emissions and therefore our impact on climate change is a priority for the Mining BU. This is among the commitments taken at the highest level.

An energy efficiency project was launched at the end of 2015 with the objective or reducing consumption on our mining sites. To achieve this, energy efficiency assessments were carried out in 2015 at the Bessines and KATCO sites, in 2016 and 2017 on the sites of Orano Canada, SOMAIR and COMINAK.

These assessments have resulted in improvement actions being taken.

For example, at SOMAIR in Niger, actions have been conducted to raise personnel's awareness of energy consumption and a number of organizational measures have helped to reduce the energy consumption in 2017 in various facilities at the plant (compliance with requirement to eliminate needless running of facilities for any stoppage of more than 30 minutes, elimination of precipitation workshops operating at below normal cadence, etc.).

In Canada, the installation of numerous meters on different energy sources (compressed air, steam, gas) has made it possible to achieve a significant reduction in the steam consumption of the industrial wastewater treatment station. Similarly, the activation of systems to preheat the air in buildings by recycling hot air (leaving the buildings) promises significant reductions in the consumption of propane.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The main source of global warming, greenhouse gases are subject to global monitoring by Orano, whether produced directly by mining activities, or resulting from the consumption of energy necessary for the proper running of the company.

Direct greenhouse gas emissions are mainly due to:

  • The burning of fossil fuels: the quantities of CO2 emitted are deduced from the quantities consumed and the corresponding CO2 emission factors:
  • Decarbonation during phases involving the chemical leaching of ore using acid, and reagents (containing carbonates) put into contact with acid solutions. The quantities of CO2 emitted (corresponding directly to greenhouse gas emissions) can then be calculated based on the quantities of carbonate contained in the ore and the quantities of reagents used
  • Emissions of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) resulting from the use of refrigerating fluids. The greenhouse gas emissions are deduced from the quantities of the different refrigerating fluids consumed and their associated GWP* (Global Warming Potential).

Note: The Global Warming Potential values used are defined in the group's reporting protocol.

The unit of measurement for GHG emissions is the metric ton CO2 equivalent (tCO2e).

The method of calculation is shown below:
Direct_GHG_emissions = Fuel_GHG_emissions + Process_GHG_emissions + Fluids_GHG_emissions

Fuel and process related emissions are calculated automatically in the reporting package STAR partly from programmed data and partly from data entered by the sites.

Emissions from refrigerant fluids are calculated and entered by the site from on-site data and protocol data.

Even though the quantity of fossil energy has slightly decreased, a slight increase in the ratio (+1.42 %) is to be seen due to a change in the ores processed, which have a higher carbonate content on a number of sites.

For emissions of ozone-depleting gases, a decrease of 55 % is to be seen compared to 2016, mainly thanks to Somair, in Niger, which has taken a number of different actions to decrease the consumption of refrigerant gases for machinery with the acquisition of a freon gas recycling station, a campaign to service the AC systems on its entire fleet of machines and a preventive maintenance program.

Orano Mining and climate change

As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Orano Mining supports the ICMM's position on climate change. In conducting its mining activities, Orano Mining undertakes to limit greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the environmental policy of Orano Mining and to carry out social projects and take action to conserve water and biodiversity in order to meet the challenges faced due to the consequences of climate change.

ICMM statement

Waste

Orano Mining assumes responsibility for its waste, whether it is conventional or radioactive waste. The company must therefore ensure that waste is traceable through to its definitive disposal or recovery.

Conventional waste

Conventional waste is related to normal activity (as part of normal production) or exceptional activity (e.g. as part of works, projects, etc.) and falls into two categories:

  • hazardous waste (e.g. asbestos, batteries, packaging for toxic substances, electronic waste, etc.),
  • non-hazardous waste (e.g. household waste, rubble, scrap metal, tires, plastic, etc.).

In Kazakhstan, at KATCO: nearly 78% of conventional waste is recycled – 100% of hazardous waste and 74% of non-hazardous waste.

For all mining activities where Orano is the operator, the tonnage of conventional waste increased by 63%. This increase is mainly related to works to dismantle former monitoring wells on our site in Canada.

Example in Niger, on the SOMAÏR site

Recycling actions are performed for all recyclable waste. For example, used oils are recovered to be centrifuged and reused as fuel instead of diesel for the drying of ore prior to grinding. The wood from clean pallets is reused to make positioning stakes for the topography team. Drums for the packaging of solvents, oils, etc. are reused to make garbage cans.

Recyclable waste may also be reused externally after undergoing a radiological inspection to certify that it is not contaminated.

Radioactive waste

Mining waste is classified as Very Low Level Waste (VLLW) and only contains naturally-occurring radionuclides.

Such Very Low Level Waste is either put into specific surface storage, or, possibly after processing, is rendered safe for disposal via normal channels, when it is below the release thresholds defined by national regulations (if applicable).

Directives sent out to each of the operational units likely to produce radioactive waste remind them of objectives and specify the resources to be deployed in terms of organization and performance to ensure such waste is managed safely. In particular, they take action in the following areas: the strict separation of conventional and radioactive waste, the exhaustive management of such waste, the taking into account of improvements, risks related to transport, the use of any final disposal channels.

In 2017, 408 metric tons of radioactive waste was produced by mining entities where Orano is the operator. This figure corresponds to the normal activity of mining operations, without any exceptional works carried out.

Biodiversity

As a responsible mining company, Orano Mining attaches a great deal of importance to the protection and conservation of biodiversity. This is why, right from the exploration stage, Orano Mining takes action to minimize its impact on biodiversity as much as possible.

Its road network is optimized to ensure that the number of tracks used is kept to a strict minimum. These tracks are maintained on a regular basis to reduce the dispersal of dust which may collect on vegetation by the side of the road. Access to them is now sealed off when they are not necessary, to allow vegetation to grow back.

In the same way, the entire drilling process has been improved to reduce its impact on the ecosystem, by installing optimized platforms, avoiding the need to cut down trees or at least allowing the number of trees cut down to be reduced. The drilling process itself is currently being improved to reduce consumption of natural resources, and of water in particular.

Migration routes of animals and livestock are also taken into account in the exploration program.

Taking action to protect biodiversity

Certain mining sites are located close to zones which are rich in biodiversity. In 2017, we undertook studies and actions to preserve sensitive zones with third parties, such as local communities, consultancy firms, university specialists or nature conservation bodies.

For example, in Mongolia, we have launched a project to replant saxauls in collaboration with a consultant who is an expert in the field.

Biodiversité - Namibie

Since 2016, Orano Mining has decided to include new indicators related to biodiversity and world heritage.

Thus, among the GRI's list of indicators, we have selected GR-EN14, deemed particularly relevant today for monitoring the potential impacts of our activity on biodiversity. GR-EN 14 reports the total number of threatened species on the global red list of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and its national equivalent) and whose habitats are situated in areas affected by our activities, classified by level of risk of extinction:

  • critically endangered;
  • endangered;
  • vulnerable;
  • near threatened;
  • least concern.

UICN categories for the Red list

In the same way, we list UNESCO World Heritage sites around our sites and the actions we take to preserve them, especially when they are in close proximity to our sites.

These two indicators allow us to determine whether our activities are liable to pose a threat to certain plant and animal species or to World Heritage sites and to take the necessary measures to avoid harming them and to prevent their degradation.

A number of the results of monitoring of these new indicators are available in the Case Studies – Environment and Biodiversity section and below for our Kazakhstan, Mongol, Canadian and Namibian sites.

As an example, here are two cases, one in Kazakhstan, the other in Canada :

Find out more

Biodiversity

An inventory was carried out in 2010 to cover the scope of our licenses

Example in Kazakhstan, in the KATCO subsidiary

The table below lists the species present in these the zones and listed in the IUCN Red book. We note that since then, employees of the company have spotted the great bustard (Otis tarda), a bird that was not observed during the 2010 inventory but is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list.

Name of species Type IUCN classification
Saiga tatarica Plant Critically endangered
Selevinia betpakdalensis Animal Deficient of data
Felis manul Animal Near Threatened
Gazella subgutturosa Animal Vulnerable
Mustela (Putorius) eversmanni Animal Least Concern
Aquila chrysaetos Animal Least Concern
Circaetus gallicus Animal Least Concern
Otis tarda Animal Vulnerable, observed by employees

In Kazakhstan, no sites are listed in UNESCO's World Heritage List.

A habitat classification study was conducted covering approximately 100,000 square kilometers

Exemple in Canada, in the Athabasca Basin region

The exploitation of this inventory resulted in a list of animal species potentially present in the basin area. These have been classified according to the IUCN red list. This gives: 26 animal species in the Least Concern category, one species recognized as Vulnerable and one species Endangered.

Habitat classification and conservation data allowed us to establish that 38 plant species classified of Least Concern and one classified as Vulnerable have the potential to occur in the local assessment boundary (watersheds). Seven plants in the Least Concern category were found in the local assessment area during flora surveys.

Field observations have also been conducted on a perimeter bounded by the watershed, and therefore including the McClean Lake site. These observations found one species in the Vulnerable category and one in the Least Concern category.

All these studies done under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) protocol result in 7 Special Concern Plants plus 1 Endangered, 3 Threatened, 5 Special Concern Animals with the potential to occur in the regional or local assessment boundaries neighboring the license zones. Surveys have found only two animals of Special Concern in the local assessment boundary (watersheds) and no plants classified under SARA.

Located more than 400km away from our surface lease, the Wood Buffalo National Park was classified, in 1983, as a UNESCO world heritage site because of its great concentrations of migratory wildlife; the large inland delta, salt plains,and gypsum karst which are internationally significant natural phenomena; breeding habitat for the endangered whooping crane; and its wild bison population living in the most ecologically complete example of the North American Great Plains-Boreal Grassland ecosystem.

Environmental studies

The Mining BU conducts environmental studies throughout the life cycle of the mining and industrial projects, whether in response to regulatory requirements or voluntarily in order to better understand the impact of our activities.

Environmental impact studies (EIS) are performed for each new mining project and whenever a major modification to our industrial facilities is planned. They meet the regulatory requirements in force and must be submitted for public consultation to be approved by the local authorities.

These studies make it possible to map the impacts generated by a new project, improve understanding of the associated environment (e.g. biodiversity inventory), identify preventive or mitigating measures and offset measures to reduce risks at the source and define preventive measures to be incorporated into our facilities.

Though this is not an exhaustive list, a few examples of studies conducted across our different sites is provided below:

SOMAÏR:

  • The PETRUS project (PETRUS = Pérennisation du traitement des Rejets Usine, or sustainable processing of plant discharges), the objective of which is to optimize the storage of effluent and solid waste.
  • Technical studies to improve method for the breaking down of nitrous vapors during the dynamic processing of ore.
  • Geotechnical study: gain a more precise understanding of the possible ways in which liquid circulates underground in order to take measures to prevent any pollution of the groundwater used. Geophysical measurements were also made in the zone where the ponds are located to ensure that no infiltration could be detected.
  • Waste study, in particular concerning used vanadium (catalyst used in the manufacturing of sulfuric acid) with a view to the possibility of recycling.
Find out more

PETRUS project

Canada:

  • Selenium speciation studies
  • Baseline study on selenium concentration in fish tissue
  • Methylated arsenic studies
  • Tailings consolidation studies
  • Tailings deposition study (sub-aqueous deposition instead of injection)
  • Testing new air samplers for monitoring PM10 and PM2.5 particulate
  • Long-term studies about tailings evolution

ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING

As part of its CSR initiative, the Mining BU has implemented environmental monitoring tools on its mining sites. Thanks to this initiative, the Mining BU is able to ensure that they do not pose any risk to the environment or local populations.

Regular environmental monitoring of our sites

To verify that there is no pollution on its sites, the Mining BU monitors many different parameters in the air, water and ground. With only one objective: to be ready to act in response to even the slightest alert.

Air monitoring
Air monitoring chiefly consists in measuring exposure to ambient radioactivity, but gaseous discharges from ore processing operations are also monitored. Measurements are taken, depending on the site, of concentrations of gas either in the air or at the outlet of chimney stacks. Measurements of radioactivity are taken continuously, both at the site and in the nearby area, using specific dosimeters.

Water monitoring
We are running campaigns to monitor the quality and quantity of aquifers and surface waters using a piezometric monitoring system upstream and downstream of our activities.

Hydrological and hydrogeological studies are performed at all sites, well before mining operations begin. These studies allow a better understanding of the environment type and the composition of the natural water so that we can adapt our projects accordingly. At all sites where it is necessary, the water is first sent through a treatment station before being released back into the environment in conformity with the environmental and health standards in force. Our experts are also studying the various water treatment methods to improve the environmental efficacy of the processes applied.

Monitoring of plants and the food chain
Sampling and analysis are regularly carried out in the food chain and on plants, including aquatic and land fauna, aquatic flora, the fruit and vegetables produced in nearby gardens, and the milk supplied by animals that have grazed in meadows near sites or drunk from receiving water courses.

Soil monitoring

FIND OUT MORE

About the participatory monitoring

To minimize mining remediation work downstream as well as exposure limits, everything is done upstream to reduce the risk of soil pollution (whether by radionuclides or hazardous chemical products). Systematic monitoring allows identification of abnormal zones. If such zones are pinpointed, soil decontamination measures are applied to restore the zone to regulatory levels. Typically, soil sampling is annual, but if necessary the frequency can be increased.

Accidental spills

Preventing accidental spillages is something our teams in the Mining BU have been working on for several years. Thanks to their efforts and the sharing of experience, these spillages are limited and are handled very swiftly and safely.

Environmental events are fed back at group level via a specific electronic tool known as AHEAD. The Orano group has also developed a new severity classification scale for near-events and environmental events which has been tested in the Mining BU.

In 2017, we had no environmental events that had an impact outside our sites. A few accidental spillages (effluents, acid solution) have occurred during our operations. They remained within the sites concerned and had no major environmental consequences and no impact outside our sites. Corrective clean-up measures were taken at the sites. This type of incident is subject to feedback and a lessons learned process which helps us improve our procedures and our practices.