Life cycle sustainability strategies
EXPLORATION TO CLOSURE
The greenfield exploration business unit operates in 17 countries in total.
A priority for the business unit in 2011 was boosting capacity in the area of sustainability management across all regions, recognising that:
- Greenfield exploration business unit activities have the potential to have both a positive and negative impact on local communities and the environment.
- Appropriate sustainability interventions and actions, such as establishing community engagement structures and conducting environmental and social baseline studies, must be integrated into exploration programmes from inception in order to mitigate risks and maximise opportunities.
- Sustainability activities must evolve with exploration projects and become more robust as projects progress.
- Delays in projects can often be attributed to a lack of community support and can translate directly into a decrease in the value of a project and/or the ability to bring the project to production.
Due diligence processes that include the evaluation of sustainability issues at exploration projects were introduced in 2011. These processes were piloted at AngloGold Ashanti’s non-managed joint venture in the Solomon Islands.
The findings will be used to guide ongoing discussions with local teams and to develop community and environmental engagement programmes in parallel with the evolution of the technical evaluation programme at this early-stage exploration project.
This due diligence exercise was the first step in a longer-term programme of improving oversight of greenfield exploration programmes, the aim of which is to enable AngloGold Ashanti to make better informed decisions about projects, identifying key risks early in the life cycle of new mining projects, and mitigating these risks more effectively.
In 2011, steps were also taken to incorporate sustainability issues more consistently into other aspects of the project life cycle. For example, sustainability experts now participate formally in capital project reviews, to ensure that consideration is given to sustainability issues in the design phase and that plans and budgets include sustainability considerations prior to their approval.
Mine closure and rehabilitation
An inevitable aspect of operating a mine is ongoing mine closure planning. This includes the associated estimates of liability costs and the assurance of adequate financial provisions to cover these costs, consistent with applicable law and regulation.
Through implementation of our closure and rehabilitation management standard, we aim to ensure that closure planning is an activity that starts at exploration and mine design and continues throughout the life of mine. This means creating a ‘closure mentality’, where each stage of project design and execution includes consideration of potential closure issues, resulting where possible in planning and design that eases closure requirements and rehabilitation costs. Without proper planning the company is likely to be exposed to higher costs, missed opportunities, compensation claims and reputational damage.
Among concerns associated with closure is the need to ensure that commitments to communities have been recorded and are acted upon. Our standard stipulates that closure planning must be undertaken in consultation with community representatives. In the course of these consultations, different issues are raised which require site-specific solutions, such as livelihood preservation, the provision and management of infrastructure and ongoing land management and rehabilitation.
In 2011, closure planning continued to receive significant focus at operational level in order to meet the target of implementing closure planning by year-end in line with our closure standard (www.anglogoldashanti.com/sustainability). This has been achieved, with the exception of the Continental Africa region, where challenges in developing appropriate closure plans have been experienced. In 2011, engagement with stakeholders regarding future land use objectives was conducted as well as studies to understand the current impacts and risks associated with closure. The region is now working to a revised deadline of December 2012 for compliance with the standard.