Technico-socio-economic requirements for obtaining the social acceptability of a new industrial project of underground exploitation in the former Lorraine coalfield


The decline of coal mining in Western Europe since the 1960s has caused a deep crisis of the coalfields, whose often highly specialized economy in mining and steel production from coke, has been difficult to convert. This is the case of the Lorraine coalfield where coal mining has ceased since 2004. The region is now experiencing demographic decline and important unemployment problems. It is in this particular context that the company “La Française de l’Energie”, is assessing the feasibility of CBM (coal-bed methane) extraction from virgin coal seems on the margins of the former coalfield. This exploration, which could lead to a new form of exploitation of the underground (through boreholes, without fracking) in the next years, has been the subject of contrasting judgments opposing those who see the beginnings of an economic revival of the coal basin and the opponents who fear the negative consequences of the project on the environment.

The aim of the thesis is to assess the technico-socio-economic conditions that might hinder or facilitate the development of this new project of natural resources exploitation. It can be expected that the conditions of social acceptability of such a project are quite different in a virgin area and in an area, such as Lorraine, which already has a mining history with numerous legacies marking landscapes and society. Part of the study both historical and geographical, will evaluate the effect of the industrial history on the future (industrial or not). This will include taking stock of mining and industrial heritage of the area and determine to what extent they play a supportive role, or is instead a hindrance to the development of a new mining project. Research also has a prospective dimension through the development of different plausible scenarios and their geographical and socio-economic consequences. Based on these scenarios, the research will be to study how different categories of local actors (economic actors, politicians) and residents and more distant inhabitants of the projects perceive these different scenarios. For this, an interview survey will be conducted. The latter should help to highlight, first what are the most positive factors in the acceptability of operations and secondly what are the main obstacles to exploitation. The research results will be compared with similar projects under development in other European coal basins (Germany, UK), to form a kind of specifications to be met for future exploitation of the underground of coalfields. More generally, the thesis will question the expectations of the population against new mining projects promoted by the European Union on its territory, they take place on virgin territories (optionally protected), territories inhabited (or not having an industrial past or present industrial activity), or at the margins of both. Even if the thesis does not focus on the technical aspects, we will show that acceptance also depends on the planned mining method and real or imagined consequences.

Research Units involved: CERGAPE/LOTERR, GeoRessources, InterPsy

Supervisors : Michel Deshaies (PR), Yann Gunzburger (MCF), Marie-France Agnoletti (MCF)

Graduate school: Fernand Braudel

Implied “Pôles scientifiques” from UL: TELL, CLCS, OTELo



Michel Deshaies: born 1966, is professor of geography at the University of Lorraine since 2006 and director of the laboratory CERGAPE / LOTERR. He submitted his habilitation to direct research
in 2005 on the theme “Mining and landscapes”. Recent publications ( ) focused specifically on mining and landscapes, the impact of energy development on landscapes and environment, the development of renewable energy and energy transition in Germany.

Marie-France Agnoletti: is master of psychology at the University of Lorraine and member of the research center Interpsy (axis cognition). Her work is in the field of social psychology of communication and language. They are both on the study of language interactions in situations of face to face and the study of social representations. She will support her habilitation to direct research, which deals with the formation and management of impressions in interpersonal relationships.

Yann Gunzburger: is an associate professor at the Université de Lorraine since 2006. He belongs to the GeoRessources laboratory. His teaching and research activities include applied geology, geotechnics, geomechanics and mining engineering. He uses field investigations, in situ monitoring as well as numerical modeling. In the framework of his research projects, he was recently invited as a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota (USA), at the McGill University, at the Université Laval and the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal (Canada). For several years, in addition to his research on the engineering aspects of mining, he has been more and more interested in their social aspects and in the condition that favor or hinder their integration in the territory.

The three supervisors attended the GazHouille multidisciplinary project, led by Yann Gunzburger.
The project GazHouille studied the operating CBM project in Lorraine and its integration into the country. This project brought together for three years a multidisciplinary team of researchers from many scientific centers of the University of Lorraine (GeoRessources, InterPsy, LOTERR, BETA (economy) CRULH (history), IRENEE and IFG (lawyers)), as well as laboratories from other Universities Montreal (UQAM), Grenoble (PACTE) and Bordeaux (CED).


Research Units

LOTERR is a research unit (EA 7304) in Geography (section 23 of CNU) grouping thirty faculty members, of ITRF and research associates, and some twenty doctoral students. LOTERR is a research center on areas treated in their different dimensions: the natural environment, the landscape features and heritage, perception and identity of territories. Research in LOTERR considers territorial dynamics, through the study of governance and actors acting in these territories to develop them. LOTERR is a research unit of scientific center TELL and part of Graduate School Fernand Braudel. The ED Fernand Braudel includes 6 research units in the following disciplines: Modern and Contemporary History (CRULH), communication (CREM), sociology (2L2S), German studies (Cegil) and architecture (LAHC).

InterPsy (EA 4432) is a laboratory of psychology that studies the interactions and intersubjective relations, developing basic research (communication, psychopathology, social psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology ) and applied research (education, health, employment). INTERPSY is attached to the Scientific Pole “Knowledge, Language, Communication, Society” (CLCS) and at the Graduate School Stanislas (ED 78) of the University of Lorraine. The unit also contributes to research undertaken in the House of Human Sciences Lorraine (MSH Lorraine, USR 3261). The team currently consists of 31 permanent members of EC (9 PR, 22 including 4 MCF HDR), 12 associates and 27 doctoral students. The structure of the unit and the definition of its scientific project is based on the articulation of four specific themes, on networks of collaboration and partnership by pooling the interests and skills developed in each axis.

GeoRessources: Created in 2013, GeoRessources is a multidisciplinary laboratory devoted to the field of geological resources – their exploration and exploitation, including recovery, treatment and recycling stages, and their impact on society and the environment. The GeoRessources Laboratory brings together Nancy’s most important players in the field of Applied Geology; it employs a total of 180 persons. The GeoRessources research activities are based around three main research themes – Geomodelling, Raw Materials, and Geosystems. The third one is related to the anthropogenic use of the geological environment.

Socio-economic challenge: implementing the future of energy and energy transition, the development of new sources of energy carriers with low carbon impact on climate change and environment and maximizing efficiency energy of industrial processes, transport and buildings.


How to apply

In order to prepare a PhD thesis within the Lorraine Université d’Excellence Program, the interested candidate should consult the PhD topics offered in each social and economic challenges.
These PhD thesis topics are proposed by faculty members or researchers accredited to supervise research.

Candidate application period: according to graduate school schedule

Each candidate may submit an application on up to three separate research topics.

Application analysis period by each graduate school
The graduate school reviews the applicants for a doctoral contract in the relevant disciplines. They check the level of supervision for each supervisor and the situation of trained doctors. Each candidate will meet the laboratory director, supervisor and a representative from the graduate school. This interview is to identify the candidate’s motivations and suitability as a candidate for the PhD project proposed by the supervisor. A recommendation will be made to the graduate school. This will summarize the strengths and/or weaknesses of the application.

PhD grants will include monthly income for the PhD student (roughly 1700 € for research only, complement can be provided for teaching missions) and environment for research in the research unit.

Please be aware that in order to offer a variety of subjects, more positions are posted here than available funding. The LUE executive committee will make the final choice on the granted funding (up to 12 positions), based on the recommendations by the doctoral schools.