tailings-management

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.


Our Approach

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 and HLFs.

Tailings & Heap Leach Management Standard

A revised Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard was introduced in early 2016 to help Barrick sites design, construct, operate and close its TSFs and HLFs in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and in alignment with accepted international best practices.

What are tailings? In certain types of processing methods, gold-bearing ore may be crushed to approximately the size of fine sand and silt, mixed with water and chemicals – such as cyanide – to form a slurry, and sent through a processing plant to extract the desired metals. Tailings are the finely ground rock particles that remain in the slurry at the end of the processing stage. Tailings slurry is most often pumped to an engineered TSF. We recover as much of the process water and residual chemicals as possible. We also recover water from these facilities for re-use in processing.

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.  Management requirements and technical criteria were also included for HLFs.

According to the Standard, an Engineer of Record (EoR) must be identified for all design and construction work, and must remain engaged during operation and into closure. A Responsible Person (RP) is also identified for each TSF and HLF, whether in design, construction, operation or closure care and maintenance.

What is heap leaching? Metals and other compounds can be extracted from ore using a process called heap leaching. In heap leaching, ore is commonly crushed to about the size of coarse gravel, placed in layers on an impermeable geomembrane liner system and irrigated with a leach solution that dissolves the desired metals. In gold mining, a diluted cyanide solution is used to dissolve the gold. The pregnant solution is then gathered, the metals are precipitated out, and the solution is recycled back to the heap leach for re-use.

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:

  • Designed, constructed, operated, closed and reclaimed with the consideration of protection of: human health, water and air quality, domestic livestock and aquatic, avian and terrestrial wildlife. Where cyanide solutions are present, the requirements of the International Cyanide Management Code must be followed.
  • Designed, constructed, operated, closed and reclaimed so as to prevent the uncontrolled release of solids and/or fluids, and the compromise of (i.e. unacceptable damage to) buried elements including filter zones and/or geosynthetic liners, resulting from large-scale structural instability such as slope failure or deformation. Adequate controls must be provided for all phases to prevent unacceptable erosion by wind and water. Potential physical and chemical degradation of structural elements such as TSF embankment fills and HLF ore must be considered.
  • Reclamation and post-operation performance requirements must be incorporated in the design and operating plans to reduce closure construction costs and long-term liabilities. Where regulatory and property-ownership conditions allow the possibility of returning a closed TSF or HLF site to the state, the design, permitting agreements and reclamation strategy should avoid perpetual care.
  • Each active TSF and HLF must be monitored and subjected to routine technical inspections and reviews.

Facility Inspection & Review

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. Barrick also conducts formal internal audits of sites’ adherence to the Standard by our corporate assurance group.

In addition, Barrick conducts Dam Safety Reviews (DSR) carried out by an Independent Engineer at a minimum of seven years and five years for high-risk facilities. DSRs involve detailed analysis of the design, construction and operation of the TSF, which the Independent Engineer will compare to accepted international practice.

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 operations and water management structures.

Riverine Tailings Management

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 environmental 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.

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.

Our Progress

  • Barrick did not experience any TSF or HLF geotechnical incidents in 2016.
  • In 2016, Barrick updated its Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard. The updated Standard incorporates heap leach management and establishes a more formalized inspection and review schedule.
  • With regard to tailings management, Barrick’s updated Standard aligns with the Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Dam Safety Guidelines, the CDA Technical Bulletin: Application of Dam Safety Guidelines to Mining Dams and the recently revised Part 10 of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia.
  • Barrick conducted ten formal internal assurance audits of our sites’ adherence to the updated Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard in 2016. The company also had third-party reviews conducted on the TSFs at Pueblo Viejo, Goldstrike, and Cortez.

Priorities in 2016

  • Target zero tailings or heap leach management incidents.
  • Barrick will continue to implement its tailings stewardship program in 2017.  Through a tailings stewardship program, we aim to further improve, company-wide, our in-house capability to undertake basic TSF monitoring, planning and reporting work while ensuring the quality of results; further develop the overall technical and reporting capability of our site staff; promote identification and sharing of best practices among sites; and better demonstrate to the public and regulators our commitment to ensuring TSF safety. As part of the program, Barrick will engage and regularly communicate with senior management on the status of our TSFs.

Human Rights

Barrick Strengthens Tailings Management, Implements New Standard

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