Environmental and natural resource management
STRIVING FOR BETTER PERFORMANCE
Over the past two years, strategies relating to environmental management have focused on continuous improvement in environmental performance, linked to achieving the business target of reducing reportable incidents (as defined in our management standard) from a 2008 baseline by 60% by 2013. Substantial progress has been made in meeting this target. In 2011, 27 reportable incidents were recorded, a reduction of 51% from the 2008 baseline. A new stretch target was adopted during 2011 of reducing reportable environmental incidents by 30% by 2015 from a 2010 baseline.
Implementation of a group-wide programme initiated in 2009 led to the development of standards in several key areas of environmental management. As previously reported, standards agreed in 2009 relate to:
- Air quality;
- Closure and rehabilitation;
- Incident reporting;
- Land use;
- Waste; and
The standards are available on our website at www.anglogoldashanti.com/sustainability.
These standards have largely been implemented at all operations and a cycle of review and evaluation of compliance is underway.
Assurance processes, which included regular site assessments through the Community and Environment Review Programme (CERP), were strengthened in 2011 with the development of an incident review panel to analyse the management of environmental, community, security and safety incidents, identify potential lessons learnt and prevent recurrence of similar incidents elsewhere in the group. Risk areas have been identified through the incident review panel and these were communicated to the various regional executives and business units to address. An internal sustainability audit committee was also established to review audit reports and to track and address risks raised during site audit visits.
In this report, we cover several areas of environmental and natural resource management in more detail:
- Water management;
- Climate change;
- Energy consumption;
- Cyanide use;
- Waste management;
- Dust control; and
A new water treatment plant is in place at Iduapriem, in Ghana. It uses reverse osmosis to convert used process water from the plant into safe water which is discharged back into the river system near the mine. The process primarily removes the arsenic from the water
Water is a key input for the mining industry. The management of water supply and quality are key concerns both for the business and its stakeholders. Failure to manage this issue can impact on gold production, as well as the health and safety of neighbouring communities and their ability to generate income through other livelihoods such as agriculture. It is a key area of interface with host communities as there is immediate public experience in the event of incidents of water pollution or shortage, which in extreme cases can lead to community protest, regulatory sanctions and ultimately the withdrawal of community and government support for our operations.
Legal compliance in all aspects of water management is the minimum requirement for operating. Where feasible, we operate a ‘closed loop’ system, recycling all of the water used in our operations without discharging it to the environment. This reduces our environmental impact, enabling us to reduce both water consumption and the potential for water contamination. It also assists in containing costs. In some areas, however, such as Ghana, high levels of rainfall and surface water runoff mean that a closed system is not feasible and that discharges must take place. In this situation, we need to ensure that we have the systems in place to manage discharges to at least meet minimum discharge standards.
Significant improvements were made in 2011 in managing water quality in South Africa and Ghana which remain our areas of highest risk and these are detailed in the regional summaries. See Regional sustainability strategies.
In our 2010 report, we set ourselves the targets of:
- developing site-based targets and action plans from 2012 onwards;
- continuing to refine key performance indicators, performance measurement and reporting in 2011; and
- quantifying the water benefits of business improvement initiatives.
So, focus in 2011 was on improving water efficiency at all of our operations. In particular, we developed an approach to integrated water management which is currently being piloted in South Africa. The region was chosen as a pilot for this project due to the complexity of the water circuit at our South African operations, a result of multiple processing plants, deep underground shafts, multiple points for water discharge to the environment, differing requirements for process and potable water quality, differing geology and climate patterns, water storage and evaporation challenges.
In 2010, we also stated our objective of improving water security at our operations by:
- finalising high-level reviews of water security arrangements in 2011;
- commencing the development of site-based water security strategies for life of mine; and
- embedding integrated water management at all sites, and recognising the value of managing water performance across entire site operations in a planned and coordinated manner.
A renewed emphasis on minimising raw water intake from the environment and securing water supplies for the future is a key feature of our global water strategy. Specific site-based water security strategies are to be developed as soon as possible.
A global strategy for building water security was drafted in 2011. Because this strategy is complex and wide reaching and requires corporate support, roll-out will occur progressively from 2012. While agreement on our global ambitions is still being sought, this strategy focuses on reducing raw water consumption, continuous improvement in integrated water management practice, progressively addressing discharge water quality legacy issues and enhanced transparency in monitoring and reporting.
At the United Nations conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, the parties to the conference agreed to a number of actions at an international level to mitigate the impacts of climate change, which remains an issue of global importance.
Potential physical risks to our operations as a result of climate change include changes in rainfall rates or reduced water availability, higher temperatures and extreme weather events. In addition, the communities around our mines could be exposed to an increased risk of food insecurity, water scarcity and adverse health impacts. At site level, we need to interpret the potential impact of climate change and develop practical action plans, which may include operational changes or capital improvements. This includes consideration of engineering and operational issues as well as the potential impact of climate change on employees and host communities.
In order to reduce our generation of greenhouse gases, the installation of low-carbon electricity generation capacity (hydropower) and energy-efficient technologies, such as efficient compressed air systems, are under consideration in the DRC and South Africa. If projects meet the international criteria, carbon credits will be generated and traded. Projects were completed in South Africa to install heat pumps at highdensity residences and improve the energy efficiency of our compressed air systems. It may be possible to earn carbon credits from the savings achieved.
Legislation on carbon pricing was passed in Australia in 2011 and is under consideration in South Africa and Brazil. Depending on the final outcome, the legislation could have a financial impact on our operations. In each country, AngloGold Ashanti is proactively engaging with government in order to find a balance between effectiveness in addressing climate change and adverse impacts on the economy and business. Because we export almost all of our products and as our prices are not set by the company but on international commodity exchanges, the company is potentially exposed if some countries impose a price on carbon (for example through a carbon tax) while others do not.
In our 2010 report, we committed to specifying life-of-mine climate change risks in more detail for priority operations, starting in 2011 with those at greatest risk. This work remains to be done in 2012.
We are a major consumer of electricity and fuels, which represent the source of all but a small portion of our greenhouse gas emissions. These energy sources are scarce and increasingly costly. Reducing our energy footprint would mean lower impact on climate change from our operations and reduced costs.
Our declining production resulted in a decrease of energy efficiency of 4% in 2011 to 6.7GJ per ounce of gold produced.
Our energy consumption has remained stable at 30.5 million GJ in 2011, largely as a result of improvements in energy efficiency at our South African operations. Our absolute emissions reduced by just over 6% in 2011 to 4.5Mt CO2e, largely a consequence of the changing generation source mix for electricity provided to our South African operations from the national grid. Traditional mining methods are typically more energy intensive with mine depth, complexity and haulage distances increasing over time as mining operations mature.
Because of the scale of this challenge, it has been set as a specific third stage focus of our South Africa region Technology and Innovation Consortium, details of which are included in the South Africa country focus. Community relations, Country focus – South Africa.
With 38% of our global energy consumption and 68% of our global greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, our South Africa region also piloted our approach to incorporation of energy management and associated reporting requirements into our global operating model, the Business Process Framework.
In 2011, AngloGold Ashanti’s total energy costs were 20% (2010: 19%) of our operating cash costs and with current trends, this is expected to increase. In future business plans, site-based energy targets are to be included for all sites for the first time. In 2011, a global strategy was developed for building energy security. This strategy promotes the adoption of clean energy alternatives and energy efficient technologies and introduces more robust and transparent reporting requirements, so that we can better understand and manage our energy-related opportunities and risks. We are in the process of outlining the input required to effect this strategy and expect that progressive rollout will occur from 2012.
In our 2010 report, we committed to:
- Improving energy performance by:
- developing site-based targets and action plans from 2012 onwards;
- continuing to refine energy metrics, performance measurement and reporting in 2011; and
- quantifying the energy benefits of business improvement initiatives. Focus on the final aspect of this target is delayed pending successful implementation of the first two aspects.
Our focus on improving energy performance at all of our operations is increasing. Approaches to continuous improvement are being piloted in South Africa.
Also in 2010 we committed to:
- Improving energy security by:
- finalising high-level reviews of site energy security arrangements in 2011; and
- commencing the development of site-based energy security strategies for life of mine.
A renewed emphasis on minimising energy consumption and securing energy supplies for the future is a key feature of our global energy strategy, with site-based strategies to be developed as soon as possible.
The management and disposal of potentially hazardous materials used in or generated as a result of gold production requires special attention. Our chemical and waste management standards address the management of risks arising from the use of hazardous materials and cover topics including waste avoidance, reduction, reuse, recycling, treatment and disposal.
The use of cyanide by the gold mining industry has been a significant source of stakeholder concern since its introduction and cyanide is carefully managed at AngloGold Ashanti operations. We are a signatory to the International Cyanide Management Code which supports the responsible use, transportation and disposal of cyanide in gold mining, enhances measures for the protection of human health, and reduces the potential for environmental impacts.
As a signatory to the code, our operations are audited by independent third parties to ensure compliance. The results of these audits are publicly available to inform stakeholders of the status of cyanide management practices at certified operations.
Currently 16 of the 19 operations using cyanide are certified as compliant to the cyanide code. In 2011, Cerro Vanguardia, in Argentina, was certified as fully compliant. The Great Noligwa and Savuka Gold Plants in South Africa were recertified to the code, as certification is valid for three years. Operations still to complete cyanide code certification are the Geita mine in Tanzania and Obuasi and Iduapriem in Ghana.
At Geita, in Tanzania, infrastructure work was completed to meet the code requirements. However, during 2011 the operation was unable to keep the residual cyanide levels on its tailings facility consistently below the code’s threshold of 50 parts per million (ppm). Additional operational measures will be tested to meet the requirement.
In Ghana, infrastructure modifications are required for our two operations in that country to become compliant with the code. At Iduapriem, a new facility for making up cyanide was successfully commissioned during 2011 which reduces the risk associated with the transport and handling of the material. However residual levels of weak-acid dissociable (WAD) cyanide on the tailings facility have not met cyanide code certification requirements and an additional capital project, which includes the installation of cyanide destruction technology, has been initiated and its commissioning is expected in mid-2013.
At Obuasi, in Ghana, the capital project ($11.5m) to replace the cyanide handling facilities advanced through to detailed design, with its construction and commissioning planned for completion in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The Córrego do Sítio II metallurgical plant in Brazil, which was acquired by AngloGold Ashanti with the São Bento operation in 2008, will be recommissioned during 2012 and will thereafter be included in the company’s cyanide code certification programme.
All of these four sites expect to register with the International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) during 2012 as facilities intending to seek certification, and will pursue certification within the three-year window period.
We generate waste rock and tailings as a result of mining and mineral processing operations. Mine tailings are the process effluents generated once grinding and extraction of gold from the ore is completed. They are deposited as slurry in large storage facilities specifically designed for this purpose.
During open-pit mining large volumes of soil and/or rock (overburden) are generated to expose the orebody. Similarly, waste rock is generated during drilling and developing access to underground orebodies. Overburden and waste rock typically contain sub-economic levels of gold and are deposited as large waste rock dumps.
The impact of failure of a tailings storage facility can be significant and we therefore monitor such facilities closely to ensure that their management is in accordance with commitments made to local communities and national regulatory requirements. We apply stricter internal controls to minimise the risk of failure and have an internal tailings management framework which is applied at all of our operations.
Following the temporary closure of the mine in 2010, construction of a new storage facility to cater for life-of-mine tailings deposition was completed at Iduapriem in Ghana, in 2011.
Our operations in Guinea, Mali, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa are situated in arid or semi-arid regions where the management of dust generated by our activities is necessary. To protect communities around these mines, water is used to suppress dust from roads. Dust on tailings facilities is controlled by using surface binding agents, water and vegetation.
In late 2011, the implementation of the South Africa region dust mitigation programme was accelerated following increased dust levels measured at a community area situated downwind of a tailings storage facility in the Vaal River area. Extensive netting was installed on the facility to serve as additional wind breaks and water spray suppression systems will be installed on the tailings facility to further control dust during dry and windy periods.
Mineral resources in traditional mining areas are becoming depleted and, like many mining companies, we are increasingly exploring or operating in remote or previously undisturbed areas where biodiversity requires attention. We must mine where the resource is located. However, the presence of sensitive habitats or vulnerable species requires careful site evaluation and selection, thorough baseline studies and engagement with local communities to understand their relationships with the environment and to take measures to mitigate the impact of our operations.
In 2011, we continued to refine our draft biodiversity management standard which will be applied to set an internal standard and common performance expectations. The standard will be finalised in 2012.