Newmont’s operations generate both mineral and non-mineral waste through mining and processing activities. Some of these wastes can pose health and environmental risks due to mineral processing, ore composition, or chemical reactions when disturbed or exposed to air or water, and have the potential to damage the environment if not properly contained. Effectively managing mineral and non-mineral wastes is critical to protecting the environment and reducing the liabilities and long-term risks associated with inadequate waste management facilities and protections. The right to health has been identified as a salient human rights risk associated with our business activities.
Our Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Policy outlines our commitment to manage waste generated by our activities in a manner that protects the environment and human health throughout the mine lifecycle; promotes beneficial post-mining land use; and reduces post-mining closure and reclamation liabilities.
The policy also requires any mercury byproduct – which is managed as a waste material – to be permanently retired from circulation using long-term safe storage as defined in the U.S. Mercury Export Ban Act. Newmont does not use mercury to mine or extract gold. However, mercury naturally occurs in ore at several of our operations, and gold processing can generate mercury compounds. All byproduct mercury from our Nevada operations is being stored at an off-site U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permitted facility. Stabilized forms of mercury – such as mercury sulfide – are approved for land disposal at licensed facilities in North America and the European Union.
Supporting our policy is a set of global standards that establish the minimum requirements for managing waste.
Our Waste Management Standard requires sites to develop a plan that addresses the generation, segregation, collection, storage, transportation, minimization, reuse/recycling, and disposal of hazardous wastes, non-hazardous wastes, wastewater and mercury. The Waste Management Standard is applicable to on-site landfills, waste accumulation facilities, sewage treatment plants and waste incinerators.
Our Waste Rock and Ore Stockpile Management Standard requires sites to characterize ore and waste rock and to carefully design, construct, operate, close and reclaim rock stockpiles including pit backfills.
This standard also addresses the risk to surface and groundwater quality from acid rock drainage (ARD), which is generated when water comes into contact with certain minerals in the rock that are oxidized by exposure to air, precipitation and naturally occurring bacteria. To limit potential environmental impacts from ARD, our operations implement site-specific management strategies so that the design and operation of mineral waste storage facilities minimize ARD risks. In instances where prevention is not possible, appropriate management measures, such as the collection and treatment of ARD, are used to protect human health and the environment.
Newmont is an active member of the International Network for Acid Prevention (INAP), an industry-led group created to promote best management practices in handling potentially acid-generating materials such as waste rock and tailings.
Our Tailings and Heap Leach Facility Management Standard requires sites to protect surface water and groundwater, prevent uncontrolled releases of pollutants or contaminants to the environment, manage process fluids and meet requirements for closure and reclamation.
Tailings are created as mined ore is reduced into sand-sized particles and then mixed with water and moved as slurry through the extraction process. After removal of the valuable minerals, the remaining milled rock slurry – called tailings – flows to an engineered tailings storage facility (TSF), which is designed to safely contain the tailings even during extreme weather or seismic events. In addition to daily inspections conducted by staff at site, qualified geotechnical engineers inspect every TSF at least once a year. These inspections include a visual examination of the physical condition and a review of all monitoring data, tailings management practices and process information. If any issues are identified, a meeting is held immediately after the inspection to develop and implement a remediation plan. Follow-up inspections are then conducted to verify that any identified issues have been remedied. Details about how we manage tailings are available in a fact sheet we post on our website.
Our Hazardous Materials Management Standard requires sites to minimize the use of hazardous materials – inclusive of hydrocarbons and cyanide – and ensures that the transfer, distribution and storage of such materials protect human health and the environment. We seek to minimize the quantity of hazardous waste we generate by replacing hazardous chemicals with less hazardous products whenever possible.
Our sites minimize the volume of hydrocarbon wastes requiring hazardous disposal by recycling almost all waste oils and greases, either through third-party vendors or on-site processes. On-site recycling can include using waste oil for fuel in the combustion process or recycling into a component of ammonium nitrate-based explosives. The used oil replaces a portion of diesel fuel used in explosives.
Mining and processing activities also generate non-hazardous waste such as scrap metal, spent tires and used oil. Every effort is made to recycle or reuse hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. All materials are recycled or disposed in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.
Newmont generated 340.1 million tonnes (374.9 million tons) of waste rock and 135.9 million tonnes (149.8 million tons) of tailings in 2015 – a decrease of 16 percent and 7 percent, respectively, compared to an overall increase in annual consolidated gold production of 11 percent. Contributing to this trend were overall improvements to ore body modeling and mine planning with higher recoveries at some operations.
- Total waste rock
- Total tailings
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For non-mineral wastes, approximately 46,000 tonnes (50,700 tons) of non-hazardous waste and 40,000 tonnes (44,100 tons) of hazardous waste were generated at our operations in 2015. Our global output of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste can vary due to activities such as maintenance requirements (volume of oils and lubricants), construction activities (quantity of packaging materials and scrap) and storage (space for metals recycling).
- Total non-hazardous waste
- Total hazardous waste
|Year||Total hazardous waste
|Total non-hazardous waste
Sites are required to evaluate opportunities to recycle, as per our Waste Management Standard. In 2015, we recycled 21,150 tonnes of hazardous waste and 24,620 tonnes of non-hazardous waste, including 7,955 tonnes of used oil. Every site recycles all waste oil produced, either through third-party vendors or through on-site processes, such as using waste oil for Yanacocha’s combustion fuel at the lime processing plant.
Our global elemental mercury production continued to decline in 2015 to 12.5 tonnes reflecting our efforts to remove mercury from our air emissions. The quantity of mercury produced varies depending on the quantity of, and mercury concentrations in, the ore processed.
|Year||Elemental Hg Production (tonnes)|
Following the Mt. Polley tailings dam failure in Canada in 2014, we conducted a detailed review of our tailings management standards, technical guidance, standard operating procedures, emergency response plans and our audit and inspection program to ensure we have the appropriate measures in place to manage all our tailings facilities. After the Samarco tailings dam failure in Brazil in 2015, we once again conducted an assessment of our programs, which are detailed in our tailings fact sheet.
An internal task force evaluating options for the safe retirement of byproduct mercury performed due diligence at a site near Montreal, Canada. Based on their findings, the site was confirmed to be a viable option, and shipments of by-product mercury from our Nevada operations began during the year. The team also engaged with the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Nevada to support efforts to fund and permit the construction of a long-term storage facility for elemental mercury.
At the Batu Hijau mine in Indonesia where we transport tailing offshore and onto the seabed, we implemented a new technology – an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) known as a Slocum glider – to monitor water conditions and check subsea tailing plume disposal. The glider can dive to depths of 200 meters and relays data via satellite technology so the data can be monitored in real time.
In March 2015, Newmont reached a settlement with the State of Nevada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding mercury releases recorded during inspections in 2007. Newmont did not admit any violation or offense, but agreed to pay $395,000 to the state and EPA as part of the settlement. The consent decree recognized that Newmont acted in good faith throughout in its management of mercury waste and in its dealings with the state and the U.S. government. The state and EPA clarified what wastes must be managed as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Construction commenced on a paste plant in Nevada.
During the year, we initiated training on the International Network for Acid Prevention (INAP) Global Acid Rock Drainage (GARD) Guide, which addresses ARD characterization, prediction, prevention mitigation, management/monitoring and future management issues.
Our internal task force will continue to evaluate options with the goal of reaching a decision related to the safe transport and retirement of all our byproduct mercury.
As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), we are participating in a global tailings storage facilities (TSF) review, which the ICMM announced after the devastating tailings dam collapse in Brazil in 2015. The review – which will be led by ICMM and include external experts and member representatives – will focus on surface tailings management, including a review of standards, critical controls, governance and emergency preparedness.