Our sites use a wide range of materials – including explosives, chemicals, and fuels – in their day-to-day operations.
If not properly managed, these materials can pose a risk to the environment and the health of our employees and local communities.
We work to manage chemicals and materials at our operations in a safe and responsible manner. We are guided in our approach by the Standards included in our Environmental Management System and Safety and Health Management System. As part of management systems, we regularly assess and rank risks, including those posed by use of hazardous materials, and then institute controls to manage those risks.
The use of cyanide, explosives, electricity, other chemicals/reagents and fuels at our mining operations is monitored based on national regulations and global best practices, including the International Cyanide Management Code.
We use consumables and reagents in the extraction of gold and copper from the ores we mine. Key consumables include fuels, explosives, sodium cyanide, nitric and sulfuric acids, sodium hydroxide and lime, among others. Our key process materials are consumed in our mining and processing applications; therefore, we buy them new and are not able to recycle them. Our Environmental Management System requires that we have controls in place to manage these materials responsibly throughout the mining process and from “cradle to grave”, which includes transportation, storage, usage and final disposal if required. Environmental Health and Safety Regulations also dictate how these substances are managed.
In any construction or mining activity, explosives are used to break rock. Rigorous safety procedures and controls are in place at our operations related to storage, transportation, handling and use of explosive materials such as ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) and emulsions.
Barrick’s operations use energy in the form of electricity, liquid petroleum gas, propane or natural gas and liquid fossil fuels, primarily diesel. Most of our electricity is purchased from utilities or other generators or from regional and national grids. A few of our more remote mines generate their own electricity using either diesel- or natural gas-fired generators. We are engaged in ongoing programs to optimize energy efficiency and are committed to increasing our use of renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy generation, where practical.
We use a variety of different fuels at our operations around the world, including diesel, gasoline, propane, natural gas and fuel oil. We have measures in place to prevent fuel spills and to contain fuels should spills happen in order to protect people and the environment. These measures include designing and constructing appropriate storage and piping, the use of multiple levels of spill containment, appropriate training of employees and contractors, and routine inspection and monitoring of storage facilities. Preventative maintenance programs for vehicle fleets and stationary power equipment also reduces the risk of spills. As a result, spills and leaks are detected quickly, the fuels are most often captured within containment, and long-term environmental impacts are prevented.
Cyanide and an oxidant (such as oxygen) in solution are generally required to dissolve gold from ore. After 100 years of use and research, cyanide remains the predominant means by which gold is extracted from ore. It is a hazardous substance that can be harmful to people and animals above certain levels. Therefore, at each of our operations, we have rigorous procedures in place for the safe transport, storage, handling and disposal of cyanide.
As of 2015, all Barrick-operated sites that use cyanide are Cyanide Code certified
Cyanide is used at nine of our owned or operated gold mining operations. The remaining two operations do not use cyanide: one does not process ore and the other is a copper mine.
The Cyanide Code, developed by the International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI), of which Barrick is a member, provides best practices for transporting, storing, using and disposing of cyanide. Developed under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Code is the product of multi-stakeholder input and is supported by environmental advocacy groups around the world. The ICMI monitors adherence to the Code through independent third-party audits. Sites are required to be re-certified by ICMI every three years. Audit documents and other information on Barrick’s compliance with the Code is available on the ICMI’s website (link).
Barrick has pioneered a new process that allows treatment of carbonaceous material through autoclaves. This material could previously only be processed in roasters. This Total Carbonaceous Material (TCM) technology uses thiosulphate to leach the gold after pressure oxidation, rather than cyanide, and resin to collect the dissolved gold, rather than carbon. This allows Barrick to process double refractory ore (ore that resists processing by cyanide), thereby accelerating cash flow from stockpiled ore. The tailings of the thiosulphate circuit are benign – in fact, thiosulphate is commonly used as fertilizer. Our Goldstrike mine in Nevada retrofitted existing leach circuits in 2014 to begin using this TCM technology. This is the only commercial use of TCM technology for gold processing in the world.
On September 13, 2015, the site identified a valve failure on a leach pad pipeline at Barrick’s Veladero mine in San Juan Province, Argentina failed, resulting in a release of cyanide-bearing process solution into a nearby waterway through a diversion channel gate that was open at the time of the incident. For further information, see Significant Incidents.
Materials are transported to and from our mines most often by contractors. Our Supplier Code of Ethics requires suppliers to mitigate the risk for environmental and safety and health impacts. Transporters must have emergency procedures in place to anticipate, assess and respond to emergency situations in order to minimize any environmental impacts and protect people.
The company’s focus on materials conservation has led to the establishment of recycling and reuse programs at our operations. A variety of materials are recycled, depending on the recycling facilities available near each location, and can include scrap metals, used oil, batteries, tires, antifreeze, wooden pallets, drums, paper products, plastic and glass. Re-use programs, such as tire re-treading and burning used oil for energy, are in place at several operations. Our business is resource extraction and does not involve manufacturing. Therefore, we do not have the opportunity to use materials that are wastes from external sources to create our products.
Our vision is the generation of wealth through responsible mining — wealth for our owners, our people, and the countries and communities with which we partner.
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