Canada is a significant focus of the Orano group’s Mining Business Unit worldwide exploration activities. Every year, we at Orano Canada conduct both summer and winter exploration field seasons in Canada’s northern regions, with a focus on Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. The highest known concentrations of uranium ore in the world – with some ore grades averaging over 20% – are found in the Athabasca Basin. Since 1964, we have explored over 765,000 hectares of land in this area.

In 2004, Orano became the first uranium company in Saskatchewan to be ISO 14001 certified for exploration activities.

Exploration Methods Overview

Exploration by Air

The physical properties of many minerals and rocks can be measured by using geophysical instruments carried in a helicopter or airplane. The information provides hints about what is below the surface and indicates areas that should be further explored on the ground.

Exploration by Ground

On the ground, geologists take readings with various instruments while gathering small samples of rock. Geophysicists measure rock characteristics using various methods, however electromagnetic surveys are their main tool. Geochemical survey methods may range from sampling the ground’s surface (soil and rocks), the vegetation and waters, including the bottom of lakes.

Line Cutting

Line cutting through trees, with a cutline width of 1.5 metres or less, provides grid references for surveys. When possible, branches are removed rather than cutting down the entire tree. All trees are hand cut to minimize the environmental impact.

Diamond Drilling

Drilling is the most conclusive exploration method to determine if an economical deposit exists in the area. In order to study the rock formations underground, a drill rig makes a small hole through bedrock. The drill cuts a solid column of core out of the rock, which is brought to the surface for further examination.

Directional Drilling

Directional drilling minimizing surface disturbance and reduces water consumption. It also provides a better understanding of the ore and bedrock orientation below ground level. From a single pilot hole, operators are able to drill in many new directions, hundreds of metres below the surface.

Exploration Areas & Special Projects

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Orano Properties in Athabasca Basin

Orano currently operates 30 exploration projects in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta’s Athabasca Basin and two in Nunavut. In addition, the company is partnered in 16 joint venture Athabasca Basin projects. This area is home to the highest known concentrations of uranium in the world.

In Nunavut the Kiggavik Project recently went through the environmental assessment process and was subsequently suspended.

Over the last three years our exploration team has drilled through more than 120km of ground at Orano operated projects in order to obtain and analyze thousands of samples. That’s almost the distance from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan or Paris to Orléans, France!

Orano operates fifteen projects within the eastern Athabasca Basin totaling over 230,000 hectares. The majority of the projects are located in the area of existing mines and mills, such as is the case for the Waterbury Cigar Lake project.

Waterbury Cigar Lake

The Waterbury Cigar Lake project is situated in the eastern Athabasca Basin. The project aims to discover new resources and possible extensions of the Cigar Lake deposit.

Ownership structure

Orano: 37.1%
Cameco Corporation: 50%
Idemitsu Uranium Exploration Canada Ltd: 7.9%
TEPCO Resources Inc: 5%

Orano operates fifteen projects in the western Athabasca Basin, with the majority located in Saskatchewan and one in Alberta, and covering about 160,000 hectares. Shea Creek is one of these western Athabasca Basin projects.

Shea Creek

The exploration site is situated 13 kilometres south of Orano’s now decommissioned Cluff Lake mine in the western Athabasca Basin. It is one of the largest known undeveloped uranium resources in Canada. Shea Creek hosts the Kianna, Anne, and Colette deposits, all found within about two kilometres of each other.

Ownership structure

Orano: 51%
UEX Corporation: 49%
Operator: AREVA Resources Canada

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Health, Safety & Environment

Orano Canada is responsible for taking all reasonable care to provide for the safety of its exploration employees and contractors and to protect the environment in areas where we operate. In doing so, its Exploration Department has developed an Integrated Management System to establish a uniform standard of safety and to promote environmental awareness and protection.

Through this system, the Exploration Department achieved ISO 14001-2004 environmental certification in 2004 and OHSAS 18001 Safety Standard certification in 2010, and has continued to maintain both certifications ever since.

Currently, the exploration team has gone over six years or more than 1,100,000 work hours without a lost time incident.

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Public relations

phone: 1 (306) 343-4500
email: oc-public relations@orano.group

Northern Scholarships

Orano provides scholarships for post-secondary students from northern Saskatchewan each year. We have been contributing to the education of northern students for more than 40 years.

Community Investment

Orano’s community investment pillar is primarily focused on community initiatives and organizations in the regions near our operations and activities or where our employees reside.

Incident Notification

This information notifies the public of incidents that may be important to them, remedial actions undertaken, and their potential effect on health, safety and the environment.

Mining operations

The group holds a broad portfolio of mines in operation (Canada, Kazakhstan and Niger), as well as projects under development (Africa).