Challenges in the Mining business group
As part of nuclear power's renaissance, uranium is once again becoming a strategic resource. AREVA, which already has over 20 years of reserves, has decided to strengthen its position as the leading supplier. In the Mining business group, this desire is expressed through prospection for new deposits, the diversification of mining resources, increased production and a continued effort towards community involvement.
With a growing budget that stood in the region of 55 million euros in 2009, AREVA is set to embark upon an ambitious exploration program over the next few years.
Initial actions consist of emphasizing the development work around the active mining sites and preparing new exploration campaigns in the uraniferous regions identified by the group.
- In Niger, analysis of the data collected during the 2003 aerial geophysics campaign led to applications for targeted permits. In 2006, the group received the Agebout and Afouday permits, including the Imouraren deposit. AREVA started significant development work to improve the characterization of the Imouraren ore body and determine mining feasibility.
- In Canada, the promising results from Shea Creek in Saskatchewan province and from the Nunavut region near Kiggavik are being confirmed.
- In Mongolia, mineral exploration is intensifying in the Dornogobi and Sukhbaatar provinces.
- In Australia, exploration continues in the state of South Australia.
At the same time, the group has invested in human resources, with the number of geologists exceeding 300 at the end of 2009, and the recruitment of over 500 extra people in 2009. The integration of these new employees is mainly performed through the AREVA Mining College.
Diverse teams bringing together geologists, miners, chemists and economists are now working on the realization of emerging or previously identified projects, particularly in Africa, North America and Central Asia.
Diversifying mining resources
The group maintains a particularly strong position thanks to the significant diversification of its portfolio of deposits.
AREVA holds the mine operating rights in 3 key zones:
Thanks to the acquisition of UraMin Inc. (now known as AREVA Resources South Africa), the group now also has facilities in Namibia, South Africa and the Central African Republic.
The number of mines in operation or under development has been brought from three in 2007 to seven in 2009.
This diversification of resources is a significant stability factor for electricity companies who need long-term guarantees for the delivery of uranium. Partnerships can be consolidated with some customers who are seeking to share mining assets in order to secure their supplies.
To meet the expectations of electricity companies, who are anticipating increased demand for natural uranium, AREVA has made major efforts to expand its uranium production and renew its resources over the long term.
The group's strategy rests on:
- Increasing the production capacity at operating mines to meet short-term demand (Niger, Kazakhstan)
- Developing projects currently in the portfolio (Nambia, Niger, Central Africa and Canada) and strategic agreements to boost production medium term
- Intensifying exploration programs to cover long-term demand.
This increase in production enables the group to fulfill and renew current contracts, and also to conquer new markets:
- The upcoming depletion of secondary resources (uranium taken from dismantled nuclear weapons in particular) will require natural uranium to be used in its place.
- The sale of the group's new reactors will lead to an associated demand for uranium as part of the integrated offer. For example, in 2009, Indian electricity company NPCIL signed an agreement with AREVA to build at least 2 EPR™ reactors in Jaitapur. This agreement also includes the supply of uranium for the entire service life of the reactors.
Drawing on the expertise of around 100 engineers, the Mining business group's research center works to develop new mining procedures. World-renowned specialists have come from Chile and Canada to join this center of expertise.
Namibia: A desalination plant to preserve groundwater
On April 16th 2010, AREVA has inaugurated the first seawater desalination plant ever built in Southern Africa, near the Trekkopje mine.The excess production will be distributed to the local population and other mines in the future.
Experience shows us that involvement in the fabric of the local community is one of the keys to the success of a mining project. This acceptance cannot happen without a true, sincere social and environmental responsibility.
To give substance to this commitment, the Mining business group has set up a social and environmental responsibility department. This body is responsible for ensuring that these 2 aspects of sustainable development are taken into account at every stage of a mining project, from exploration to reclamation.
In Namibia for instance, the Trekkopje ore deposit is located in the center of a particularly arid region. The mines in operation there draw water from the groundwater table, the supply of which has already significantly dropped. The group therefore decided to build a seawater desalination plant to produce 20 million m3 of water annually. Opened in April 2010, the plant will meet the site’s needs for water without drawing from natural resources and will also supply potable water to local populations.
AREVA also believes that it is fundamental to enable communities to benefit from the results of mining operations. This extends beyond the company's patronage initiatives; for example, we are committed to encouraging the development of local companies, by favoring regional suppliers.
Finally, the group's aim is to recruit and train staff on location for its mining activity. For example, 99% of AREVA's 2,500 employees in Niger were recruited locally.
In June 2009, AREVA signed an agreement with two associations, Sherpa and Médecins du Monde:
- to create health observatories near its mine sites and,
- to set up a pluralistic group for health monitoring.
The health observatories will study the potential impacts of mining operations on the health of workers and the local community in France and abroad. For diseases attributable to its mining operations, if any, AREVA will bear the cost of treatment, as provided in the French medical health insurance program.