Closure and reclamation of a mining property is a multifaceted process with risks that are equally complex. Growing regulatory requirements and community expectations, as well as increased unit expenses, are also driving the costs associated with closure activities and liabilities higher. Effectively managing our closure risks early in the mine lifecycle and successfully closing and reclaiming mines are crucial for gaining stakeholder trust and improving our access to land for future mine sites.
Our commitment to provide for long-term environmental stability and a positive legacy for future generations is stated in our Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Policy, and our approach to fulfilling this commitment from the exploration through post-closure stages in the mine lifecycle is detailed in our Closure and Reclamation Management Standard.
Through our global closure and reclamation strategy, we work to continuously improve our closure governance, processes and performance. The strategy’s governance model ensures a balanced, multidisciplinary approach to closure planning as well as senior executive involvement and oversight of closure plans and costs. A steering committee, composed of members of the executive leadership team, reviews progress toward targets and provides leadership. A cross-functional working group ensures compliance with applicable standards and performs the annual site closure reviews, and the multidisciplinary regional Closure and Reclamation Technical Teams (CRTT) plan and implement closure activities at the site level. The working group and CRTTs participate in annual global workshops that raise awareness, recognize areas of improvement, and provide an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned.
All sites must develop and maintain a closure and post-closure strategy that encompasses risk assessments, stakeholder engagement plans, closure and reclamation plans, and concurrent reclamation plans that are integrated into the annual mine planning process.
Another important element of our strategy is the ongoing management of 15 legacy sites. These include closed mine sites we acquired as a result of a larger acquisition as well as sites we once operated but have since ceased mining. We commit to safely and responsibly manage, decommission and rehabilitate these sites so they pose no threat to the environment or people and, can be repurposed when possible for optimal post-mining use.
To support our efforts to manage our closure risks, we set annual targets for concurrent reclamation, which reduces the size of our impact, minimizes acid rock drainage and other environmental impacts, and reduces bonding obligations.
In addition to accruing funds for reclamation costs relating to currently or recently producing mineral properties, we also have environmental obligations associated with our legacy sites that require developing and implementing remediation plans. For more details of Newmont’s closure and reclamation costs, please see our 2017 10-K report, pages 9, 73, and 121.
Globally, we completed concurrent reclamation on more hectares than planned for reclamation during 2017, exceeding our initial target area by approximately 130 percent.
All 13 sites met their target to complete their planned closure and reclamation activities for 2017. As the newest additions to our operations portfolio, Long Canyon in Nevada and Merian in Suriname completed closure and reclamation action plans and developed baselines from which future targets will be set.
During the year, an additional 711 hectares globally were disturbed by our operations, and a total of 5,040 hectares are in various stages of reclamation, bringing the total cumulative disturbed ground not yet reclaimed to 32,509 hectares.
All sites completed annual closure estimate reviews and commenced closure risk assessments. The reviews, which included a strong focus on concurrent reclamation, found overall improvement in cost estimates as well as additional opportunities for concurrent reclamation.
We continually explore opportunities to extend the mine life at all our operations; however, at the end of 2017, two sites – Lone Tree and Emigrant in Nevada – were within five years of their expected closure date based on current metal prices and our business plan. These sites have plans in place to prepare the site and local communities for closure.
Notable closure and reclamation activities during the year included:
- An internal team launched a review of our current strategy and identified additional opportunities to further integrate business and closure planning, enhance stakeholder engagement and improve the accuracy and transparency of our closure and reclamation performance. The first phase of the review focused on immediate tactical opportunities to improve consistency between sites on closure planning and estimating.
- We expanded the membership of our closure working group to include representation from all regions and project and legacy sites teams.
Among the highlights at our sites:
- We partnered with students from the University of Notre Dame to evaluate and suggest innovative ideas for sustaining economic livelihood in the communities near our Akyem mine after the mine closes (which is not until 2024 under current mine plans). Among the findings was that Newmont should not be the agent of economic development, but that the Company is in a unique position to bring together the capabilities of government, communities, NGOs and businesses to convene a separate economic development entity to help the community achieve its long-term economic stability goals. We continue to assess the concepts for application in the current mine scenario.
- At our KCGM joint venture in Australia, the closure review found a marked improvement in planning and executing concurrent reclamation, stakeholder engagement, and documenting planning and costs.
- Our Boddington operation in Australia installed a new seven-year rehabilitation slope trial at 19 degrees, which decreases the overall length of waste rock dump slopes and, if successful, will decrease the number of dozer hours required for closure and reduce the associated costs.
- At the Woodcutter’s legacy site in Australia, we completed reclamation work on raising the elevation within the footprint of the backfilled tailings dams, and creating a wetland from the borrow pit.
- Although the Quecher Main project in Peru extended Yanacocha’s mine life to 2027, we continued the stakeholder consultation process that began in 2016 to secure the support from communities and other key stakeholders that is needed to invest in additional projects and further extend the mine life of Yanacocha. Following the significant increase in estimated closure costs at Yanacocha, which we disclosed in 2016, we increased our company-wide focus on strengthening our governance structure; improving our understanding of the rigor needed for all closure elements, especially those related to water treatment; and ensuring key internal stakeholders are aligned on all closure objectives.
- Our team in Nevada received the 2017 Nevada Mining Association’s “Excellence in Mine Reclamation” award for concurrent exploration reclamation at the Chevas‐High Desert exploration reclamation project.
- A short-term plan was implemented for the Lone Tree pit lake in Nevada. The plan includes water treatment with trona, a naturally occurring sodium carbonate compound, to achieve acceptable chemistry. Data collected will inform a long-term treatment strategy. We engaged with local agencies and NGOs to secure their support for our management approach.
- Implementation of the phase one remedial work plan continued at the Midnite mine legacy site – a former uranium mine located in the state of Washington. The work included dewatering, removing sediment and backfilling one of the two remaining open pits.
We extended our 2017 closure and reclamation target through 2019 as our sites have put in place more ambitious annual concurrent reclamation plans that better align with our long-term closure plans and business objectives.
|Year||Target definition||Target for sites||Target for Newmont|
Percent of concurrent final reclamation activities executed against the site plan
90 percent of concurrent final reclamation annual plan achieved
90 percent of planned reclamation activities achieved across Newmont
Areas of focus in 2018 to achieve our target and improve our closure and reclamation performance include:
- We will continue to mature our closure strategy, which involves mapping business and closure planning touch points, further integrating closure planning and mine planning, and developing the supporting pillars of a refreshed, comprehensive closure strategy. Part of the strategy development process will be an examination of alternative post-mining land use.
- Our 2018 annual global closure workshop will focus on closure planning process efficiencies (e.g., the integration between mine planning and closure processes and teams). Findings from the workshop on aspects of closure that warrant focus will be communicated to the regional technical teams, closure working group and the steering committee with recommendations for improvement.
- At the Woodcutter’s site, we will begin planting wetland vegetation in the borrow pit and continue work to advance our goal of handing over the land to the traditional owners.