Partnering to Protect and Restore Historical Water Resource
The Willow Creek Recreation Area – which consists of three man-made ponds that were built in the 1960s – resides on Newmont’s Phoenix mine property near Battle Mountain, Nevada.
While the ponds had been neglected long before Newmont owned the property, in 2012 we took steps to restore the area to ensure it is enjoyed for generations to come. In partnership with Lander County, Lander County Convention and Tourism, Nevada Department of Wildlife and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Newmont formed the Willow Creek Legacy Program.
The program’s goal is to restore and preserve the aquatic and riparian habitat of Willow Creek and develop a clean and safe recreation area for outdoor enthusiasts. Work completed to date – which was largely done by Newmont employee volunteers – includes pond dredging, foot bridge and campsite construction, and restroom installation. In 2014, the Nevada Department of Wildlife completed spring fish stocking at Willow Creek, providing the Battle Mountain community with the only stocked fishing pond in Lander County.
Rich Ripley, chairman of Lander County Convention and Tourism Authority, said he loves what has been done at Willow Creek.
“We’ve been trying to do this for three or four years now,” he said. “I love the progress. I love we all finally got together. I think it’s a huge asset for Lander County.”
Century-old Station Provides Clean Power to Historic Mining Town
Since 2010, Idarado – a Newmont subsidiary that manages the legacy Idarado mine site near the picturesque mountain town of Telluride, Colorado – has operated the Bridal Veil Powerhouse.
The powerhouse, which sits above the state’s tallest free-flowing waterfall, was constructed more than 100 years ago by the Smuggle-Union Mining Company and originally powered the gold mine’s mill. After the mine ceased production in 1978, the powerhouse remained in operation as it provided an important source of power to the area.
Delivering water to the powerhouse is the penstock, which is a series of pipelines that interconnects three lakes – the furthest of which is located 2,300 feet above and three miles away – and sends water through the powerhouse’s Pelton wheel generator. The generator, which is the second-oldest operating AC generator in the United States, is rated at 500 kilowatts. The power generated is sold to the San Miguel Power Association, a rural electric cooperative that serves seven counties in western Colorado.
The water that flows through the powerhouse also provides a municipal water source to the Town of Telluride. Efforts to upgrade and rehabilitate the penstock were initiated in 2013 and are ongoing.
Backfill Plan to Return Land to Pre-Mining Condition
Prior to commencing commercial operations in 2012, Newmont’s Emigrant mine in Nevada created a plan to reduce its footprint and reclaim the land to approximate its original contour by using mining waste rock as backfill during all phases of the mine lifecycle.
Since 2013, Emigrant has implemented concurrent in-pit backfilling. For the first 12 million tons, the site is using an external waste rock disposal facility. Once enough rock is mined out of the pit, all waste rock will be placed as backfill within portions of the pit already mined.
To protect the environment and ensure no waste rock categorized as potentially acid-generating (PAG) is exposed to the surface after reclamation, all rock categorized as PAG will be properly encapsulated within at least 10 feet of non-acid-generating (NAG) material.
Rehabilitating land that is no longer required for operations while we are still mining is effective in achieving successful and sustainable post-closure outcomes and minimizes the impact to the environment in important ways – it reduces the mine’s footprint since no land will be impacted by standalone waste rock areas; avoids the creation of pit lakes; and turns the land back to nearly the same condition as prior to mining activities.
Plan Aims to Improve Biodiversity near Suriname Project
For more than a decade, Newmont has been collecting baseline environmental information for the Merian project in Suriname – a country recognized for its lush forests that cover most of the land and important ecological services such as carbon sequestration, fresh water sources and biodiversity.
While independent studies verified that the Merian project is not located next to any protected areas and does not include any critical natural habitat, we conducted extensive technical studies and engaged with stakeholders during the permitting process to gain a better understanding of the biodiversity value of the project area. Following permit approval, we partnered with conservation professionals to develop a plan to mitigate the biodiversity impacts associated with the project.
The overarching objective of the Merian biodiversity management plan is to minimize negative impacts of the project on biodiversity and to maximize positive outcomes. Specific objectives include:
- Minimize habitat, wildlife, air and water quality impacts through controls on vegetation clearing, vehicle speeds, noise, hunting and erosion;
- Complete concurrent, progressive and final reclamation to return the mine area to a productive ecological condition;
- Direct engagement with neighboring communities and stakeholders; and
- Develop measurable offsets to achieve no net loss and, ideally, a net benefit.
The plan includes working with the government of Suriname and non-governmental organizations to better protect habitats and biodiversity through education and awareness.
Project to Significantly Reduce Sulfur Dioxide and Mercury Emissions
At the KCGM operation in Australia, a large proportion of the gold ore mined is refractory, meaning sulfide minerals trap the gold making it difficult to extract. For this ore type, roasting – which produces off-gases, or emissions – is an effective method of recovering the gold.
While the emissions from the Gidji roaster at KCGM meet air quality standards, they also are the largest contributors to Newmont’s sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions.
For this reason, KCGM undertook the Emission Reduction Project, which involves replacing the Gidji roasters at KCGM with a large ultra-fine grinding (UFG) mill and installing emission controls at the Fimiston plant. Construction on the UFG mill began in 2014, and once it is commissioned, the Gidji roasters will cease operating (expected by the end of 2015). The project’s goal is to reduce KCGM’s gaseous mercury emissions by at least 90 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by at least 99 percent.
Continuous Improvement in Cyanide Management
Along with being a signatory to the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) – a voluntary program that focuses on responsibly handling and managing the use of cyanide in the gold mining process – Newmont’s updated standards go above and beyond the ICMC and require internal and external audits in between the formal ICMC audits.
In 2014, we also conducted a specialized training course for metallurgists, metallurgical technicians and environmental team members from all our sites in Australia. The training, which was conducted by Australia's national science agency CSIRO, combined lectures on topics, such as the chemistry of cyanide solutions and analysis methods, with training sessions to improve accuracy in monitoring and accounting for the various cyanide compounds in process solutions.
The course also incorporated discussion sessions to allow each site to present their knowledge and address challenges and opportunities regarding cyanide management. We are currently evaluating opportunities to conduct similar training programs across our other sites and regions.
Botanical Garden Designation First in Indonesia
In 2014, around 240 hectares (nearly 600 acres) of land reclaimed on the PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (PTNMR) former mine site were designated a botanical garden by the government of Indonesia.
This designation is significant for a number of reasons. The process involved extensive research, input and approvals from a number of stakeholders including the Department of Forestry, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, University of Sam Ratulangi, North Sulawesi Sustainable Development Foundation and other local constituents. In addition, this designation is the first ever in Indonesia, and the area will serve as a model for current and future mine reclamation projects in the country.
The botanical garden is part of a larger reclamation forest (443 hectares, or 1,112 acres), which was part of a reforestation strategy that began during PTNMR’s operations and was incorporated into the mine’s closure plan and Sustainable Development Program. Today, the reclamation area is a thriving forest that includes mahogany, teak, nyatoh and sengon trees.
Both the forest and the garden are expected to make positive economic and environmental contributions. The reclamation forest is a model carbon absorption project – the first of its kind in Indonesia – and the garden is expected to become a tourist attraction and a source of regional revenue. The botanical garden designation also ensures protection for the habitats of hundreds of species of plants, birds, insects and other animals. And because of the forest’s and garden’s rich biodiversity, they are expected to serve as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for environmental research and education.