As part of the mining process, large volumes of mine tailings may be produced and stored in engineered tailings storage facilities (TSFs).
The TSF can include a tailings dam(s), the impoundment, access roads, diversion channels, downstream seepage collection ponds and other facilities.
If not properly managed, TSFs can fail and lead to harmful impacts on the environment and nearby communities. This is why we have established internal requirements based on international best practices, helping these facilities to be carefully designed and monitored by internal and external experts.
Barrick has put in place a Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard to help our sites comply with applicable laws and regulations and to be aligned with accepted international practice. The Standard establishes the minimum geotechnical, hydrological, hydrogeological and environmental design, construction, operation and closure criteria and procedures for Barrick’s TSFs.
The Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard was introduced in early 2016 to help Barrick locate, design, construct, operate and close its tailings storage facilities (TSFs) and its heap leach facilities (HLFs) in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and in alignment with accepted international best practice.
The Standard is built upon the previous Tailings Management Standard and its accompanying Tailings Management Guidance document, which provided the technical criteria for the Standard that the company introduced in August 2012.
According to the Standard, an Engineer of Record (EoR) must be identified for all design and construction work. A Responsible Person (RP) is also identified for each TSF, whether in design, construction, operation or closure care and maintenance. At Barrick’s operating mines with TSFs, the RP is usually the Process Manager or another senior management-level person in Plant Operations.
We also require that each RP establish and maintain a dedicated management system. This includes preparing and updating key management documents such as life of mine tailings generation and storage requirements; closure plans; a compliance plan; an organizational chart; an operation, maintenance and surveillance manual; a formal risk assessment; and an emergency preparedness and response plan.
The Standard also establishes the following minimum geotechnical, hydrological, hydrogeological and environmental design, construction, operation and closure criteria and procedures for Barrick’s TSFs and HLFs. They must be:
Among other performance obligations, the Standard requires that the results of daily inspections by trained site staff be reported the same day to the RP. All operating TSFs are also inspected at least once a year by the EoR responsible for the design of the TSF or by a suitably-qualified and experienced geotechnical engineer outside of Barrick with a comprehensive understanding of the TSF design and operating phase. TSF management reviews by Barrick’s corporate technical specialists must be conducted at least once per year. Barrick also conducts formal internal audits of sites’ adherence to the Standard by our independent assurance group.
The company also contracts independent, internationally recognized geotechnical experts to conduct third-party reviews at many of its planned, operating and closed TSFs at a frequency based on perceived risk, site conditions and other factors (at a minimum, every two to four years at operating TSFs assigned a High or Extreme Failure Consequence Classification under Barrick’s Standard). Barrick began its third-party TSF review program in 1998, and has completed over 80 reviews. While these third-party reviews normally focus on the technical aspects of tailings management, they may also include (or in some instances be dedicated to) the geotechnical and hydrological performance of waste rock dumps, heap leach piles and water management structures.
The Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea is operated by Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL), an independent operating entity which is jointly owned by Barrick and Zijin Mining. The mine deposits the majority of tailings material into a nearby river under government permit and regulation and BNL’s own internal oversight.
When Barrick acquired the Porgera mine in 2006, we extensively investigated alternative waste management methods to replace the existing riverine tailings disposal process. No practicable alternatives were found due to a number of factors, including the steep and unstable terrain, high rainfall, frequent landslides and seismic activity surrounding the Porgera mine.
Ongoing monitoring results show that the river system is operating as expected and that, downstream of the mixing zone, water quality and sediment are consistent with the stringent metal limits established by the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. To date, the mine has not exceeded environment permit water quality compliance levels.
Despite this, in the future, Barrick will build mines that rely on other methods of disposal of mining and processing material, and avoid riverine tailing disposal methods. At the Porgera mine, BNL will continue to seek ways to further reduce potential environmental impacts associated with riverine disposal.
More information about Porgera and riverine tailings disposal is available here.
In the future, Barrick will build mines that rely on other methods of disposal of mining and processing material, and avoid riverine tailing disposal methods.
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