Industrial demand for mineral raw materials is constantly growing, across an ever-expanding variety of sectors. In this context, manufacturers are looking for solutions to secure their supply chain, while also trying to ensure a more environmentally-responsible use of these materials.
With this in mind, BRGM frequently receives requests from manufacturers to help address these issues, for example by identifying substances that can fulfil specific functions, finding new deposits, or assessing the potential of a particular deposit, etc. Today, new types of requests are frequently being added to the list, as Sébastien Colin, a geologist specialising in geomaterials, explains: "Manufacturers are interested in resource rationalisation, i.e. optimising the extraction and exploitation of substances and their potential by-products. They are also increasingly concerned about the environmental and societal issues surrounding the mineral resources they use, which can mean searching for substitutes and reorienting their consumption."
Solutions based on scientific expertise, with an educational component
Drawing on its expertise in the fields of geology and mineral-resource economics, BRGM can provide solutions for every type of issue that manufacturers may have, from upstream to downstream in the value chain. "We put together a multidisciplinary team, tailored to the request," says Nicolas Charles, geologist and project manager. Every year, around ten projects are carried out, with varying durations which may evolve over time. "Our status as a public-sector scientific institution provides our customers with the guarantee that the research and work conducted are reliable, supported by data and independent," adds Nicolas Charles. "We also have strict protocols that ensure the confidentiality of the data we process and the results we produce."
The deliverables vary according to the project, ranging from assessments of geological and mining potential, to reviews of substances, chemical or mineralogical analyses, database creation, recommendations, sector-based studies, methodological developments, etc. "Our projects, presentations and deliverables are designed and produced to provide a precise and clear response to the problems submitted", notes Sébastien Colin. The fundamental aim of these assignments is to produce scientific and educational reports that can be used directly by customers.
More user-friendly navigation
This is also the aim of Minéralinfo. Launched in 2014 and co-managed by the Non-Energy Mineral Resources Policy Office (French Ministry of Ecological Transition) and BRGM, the French portal for non-energy mineral resources (metals, industrial minerals and construction materials) makes key information available to government bodies, local authorities and businesses, as well as to the general public.
A new version went online on 18 October 2021. It was produced as part of a collaborative project involving BRGM's Georesources Department and Digital Infrastructures and Services Department. "An audit was carried out in 2019, including a series of workshops with the different categories of users," says Anne-Sophie Serrand, mineral-resources geologist and project manager. "This work helped identify their expectations and the improvements that needed to be made."
The new Minéralinfo site now functions on all devices (computers, tablets, smartphones) and has a clearer architecture that provides more user-friendly browsing, so it is easier to find the information you want. "We also rewrote and improved the content to make it more accessible to every kind of user, whether they be familiar with the field of minerals or not," explains Anne-Sophie Serrand. The site addresses several topics: mineral resources in France and their management; supply-chain security for the economy; responsible supply chains; recycling and the circular economy; research, innovation and training.
It includes various resources and data on raw materials, their natural environment and the associated regulatory frameworks, as well as the Écomine newsletters which present analyses and reviews of key strategic metal markets, raw-material criticality sheets, fact sheets about industrial rocks and minerals, regional quarry maps, and more. The number of visits to Minéralinfo peaked when the new version was launched and then stabilised at a consistently high level. The first feedback about the site is expected in 2022. "The site's editorial committee is working on shifting the content presentation to a more educational approach, to make it easier for users to understand and appreciate," says Anne-Sophie Serrand.