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Mine closure is one of the most complex tasks a mining company must undertake. It is also one of the most important.

When done well, with early planning and holistic thinking, mine closure can deliver lasting, positive and sustainable legacies for local communities, the economy and wider country. At Barrick, we don’t think of closure as the end point of a mine’s life but rather as the transition to the next phase of the land and surrounding area’s life.

Unfortunately, the mining industry has a legacy of poor closure and lasting liabilities, including examples of environmental and social damage, unproductive land, environmental degradation, a culture of dependency, development gaps in the community and financial liabilities. Throughout the industry, there are very few examples of well executed mine closure. At Barrick, we plan to change this.

It may sound counter intuitive but when planning a new mine, we are already thinking and evaluating how we will eventually close it. How we manage the environmental and social aspects of closure is set out in our Mine Closure Standard, which is designed to ensure that construction and operating teams consider the consequences of the decisions they make now with the future of the mine, the environment and the community in mind. Our closure plans are living documents and designed to develop over time, and respond to changes in an agile manner while considering long-term principles. Closure alternatives assessments are completed regularly and evaluated on the basis of long-term environmental and social performance to ensure the best possible outcomes are achieved.

For example, we generally don’t regard ‘Active long- term water treatment’ as an acceptable closure strategy due to the extensive ongoing resource consumption, management requirements, and liabilities incurred by water treatment plants post closure. So instead of relying on water treatment plants that will consume energy and resources long into the future, we work to find cost-effective and nature-based solutions to prevent negative impacts on water quality where possible and to use sustainable, low-impact mitigation technologies or solutions which are site and region-specific. We also rely on input and collaboration with local stakeholders who inherently have a vested interest in long-term goals of formerly mined lands.

A Focus on Social

All our closure plans identify steps to be taken throughout the mine’s life to deliver safe and sustainable closure both from an environmental and social perspective. Our objective with closure is to maximize the value distributed to the community not just through the operational life of the mine but throughout closure. For example, the region of the DRC where our Kibali mine is located is not serviced by the Congolese national grid. To supply Kibali with the electricity needed to run the mine efficiently, we have constructed three hydropower stations. The construction of these stations not only makes operational and environmental sense for Kibali, it also brings social benefits. Nearby communities benefit from a portion of the electricity generated now and, when Kibali eventually closes, the stations will be handed over to the Congolese government to own and operate, thereby helping light up an otherwise dark corner of the DRC.

Buzwagi’s Special Treatment

Our Buzwagi mine was an economic powerhouse for Tanzania’s Shinyanga region for nearly 15 years. So when the mine moved into closure in July 2021, the local community and Tanzanian government were naturally worried about what would happen to the region and its employees once the mine closed.

Fortunately for the people of Shinyanga and Tanzania, we had a plan to transform Buzwagi’s footprint into an economic hub for the region and establish a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to attract further investment into the region. The plan for this transformation began in earnest during 2021 when a feasibility study was commissioned which showed that the creation of a special economic zone had the potential to replace Buzwagi as the region’s economic driver, and could:

  • Create more than 3,000 jobs annually.
  • Generate in excess of $150,000 each year from service levies for the local municipality.
  • Deliver more than $4.5 million in employment taxes each year.

Since 2022, we have been busy attending to the physical closure of the mine, which has involved:

  • Rehabilitation work across more than 300 hectares of disturbed land and planting more than 600,000 trees.
  • Capping of the TSF and Run of Mine (RoM) pad rehabilitation.

We have also made good progress on the Buzwagi Special Economic Zone and social investment in the communities. At the end of 2023, the two SEZ investors had mobilized to the site, with one producing from the established factory in the Buzwagi SEZ and supplying conveyor belt rollers to our Tanzanian mines, while also exporting to the DRC (Kibali) and Zambia (Lumwana). Other investors continue to mobilize: a grinding media company is expected to start construction in May 2024 and production in November 2024, with a view to serving the Tanzanian industry and beyond.

Other facilities handed over in 2023 include:

  • Two agricultural resource centers: Mondo and Mwendakulima.
  • A range of apiary and poultry projects.
  • The terminal at Kahama Airport to improve access and make the region a real hub for investment.

Further to this, construction of a $1.28 million irrigation scheme and a $1.36 million water supply project are in progress. These are set to be completed and handed over in 2024.


Management approach: Closure

Governance and accountability

Our President and CEO is ultimately responsible for environmental and social management with our Group Sustainability Executive and our Director, Reclamation and Closuretaking a lead in driving the implementation of our environmental and social policies, the associated procedures and overall performance – including for closure planning.  

The Group Sustainability Executive is supported by regional-level environmental leads as well as dedicated site-level environmental teams who drive implementation at the operational level, and our social teams who help drive develop programmes throughout the mine life that deliver positive social closure. 

Policies and procedures

Our approach to mine closure reflects our ambition to share the benefits with stakeholders. Even in closure, our goal is to maximize the value for the local community. How we manage both the environmental and social aspects of closure is set out in our Closure Standard – which was refreshed in 2022. This requires us to:

  • Apply a mitigation hierarchy to manage our negative environmental impacts, so we avoid these wherever possible and minimize those which cannot be avoided;
  • Minimize our use of water and control our impacts on water quality;
  • Engage with stakeholders including local communities to support sustainable management of water resources for the benefit of all local users; and
  • Use energy as efficiently as possible.

To deliver on our commitments under our Closure Standard and applicable regulatory requirements, we establish closure plans for all our mines before construction begins. These plans outline the steps to be taken throughout the mine life to deliver an effective and environmentally sound end to operations, including rehabilitation of the surrounding area and protection of water resources. These plans are regularly updated, and a proportion of each mine’s annual budget is set aside and ringfenced each year to ensure all closure obligations are met.

All operational sites develop detailed and quantifiable concurrent rehabilitation plans each year and we report annually in our sustainability report on the total amount of land disturbed and not yet rehabilitated at our mine sites.

Our closure plans identify steps to be taken throughout mine life to deliver safe and sustainable closure from an environmental perspective, as well as elements of social closure.   The plans are designed to be iterative and agile, while considering long term principles, and are regularly updated.  

We regularly undertake Closure Cost Assessments to review and update each operations closure costs and update budgets and financial planning. These reviews are undertaken both internally and by external consultants and reviewed by our auditors.

Key targets and metrics

  • Proportion of operational sites achieving annual reclamation targets.
  • Annually we also report:
    • Total land disturbed and not yet rehabilitated
    • Total amount of land newly disturbed
    • Total amount of land newly rehabilitated or divested
    • Total land disturbed and not yet rehabilitated
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