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Responsible Management of Waste and Tailings

Responsible management of waste and tailings

Gold mining and its processes create waste including tailings, waste rock, and non-processing waste.

Making sure we deal responsibly with the waste we generate is critical to the health of local environments, local communities and our business. Reducing mine waste and increasing recycling throughout the mine life cycle drives down costs and reflects our commitment to operating in a responsible and sustainable manner. We have a target to increase the proportion of waste we recycle year-on-year.

GISTM Disclosure

Barrick has fulfilled its commitment to provide disclosure under the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management for all of its tailings storage facilities that are classified as ‘Very High’ or ‘Extreme’ consequence under the GISTM.

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Tailings management and dam safety

Tailings are the materials left over following the processing of mined ore. They are our most significant waste stream and must be carefully managed to avoid harm to people or the environment.

Tailings typically leave a processing plant as a slurry of fine mineral particles and water, and are disposed of through:

  • Backfilling:  Slurry is incorporated into thickening materials used to backfill pits of mined out underground stopes
  • Storage facilities:  Slurry is pumped into repositories known as tailings dams or TSFs.

At the heart of our approach is the safety of people and the environment and our Tailings Management Standard aligns with international best practice.

As set out in our Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard, safety is at the center of our approach. We are also working to align our approach with the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM), which we contributed to the formation of, and are on track to align with for all ‘very high’ and ‘extreme’ classified facilities. We have a dedicated Director of Reclamation and Closure with direct responsibility for this process, reporting to our Group Sustainability Executive. 

In 2022 we also conducted detailed independent reviews of the TSFs at nine sites (Kibali, Loulo, Tongon, North Mara, Phoenix, Nickel Plate, Grizzly Gulch, Golden Sunlight, PV El Llagal) and conducted follow up reviews including site visits at five: Bulyanhulu, Carlin – Goldstrike, Carlin – Gold Quarry, Cortez, PV. We also completed measures to further buttress facilities at closed sites including Nickle Plate (Canada) and Mercur (US). An inventory of our facilities, is available here

True to the spirit of the GISTM we are also evolving our tailings management to include sustainability in the earliest design stage. In 2022 we become one of the first mining companies in the world to weight environmental and social considerations into the process to decide a location for a new tailings facility. The new facility will be at our Pueblo Viejo mine (Dominican Republic) from 2027. The process saw us choose a location that was economically more costly but which best fitted the recommendations of an environmental and social impact assessment.

More details are available below in our Waste Management Approach.

Non-processing waste

We apply the ‘avoid, reduce, re-use, and recycle’ hierarchy to the management of non-processing waste such as batteries, fluorescent lights, waste oils, solvents, electronic waste and laboratory assay waste.

How we manage waste is guided by local context and restrictions. For example, our Veladero mine in the High Andes in Argentina does not have a landfill, so our site waste management team works with local and regional bodies as well as government to manage and recycle waste.

We track the volumes of waste we generate and how each waste stream is disposed of. Our aim is to reduce the proportion of waste we send to a landfill. Tracking and reporting our waste streams help us to compare performance and improve best practice across our Group.

These lessons include exploring opportunities to use community-based commercial enterprises that can also create economic opportunities. At our Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali, local youth co-operatives GIE Kenieba and GIE DK have contracts to collect and recycle scrap metals. In Tanzania at our North Mara mine we have installed a new waste storage and separation facility managed by local youth collective Kemanyaki.

Full details, including our policies and processes in relation to hazardous materials such as mercury and cyanide are available in our waste management approach factsheet.

Working with local artisans

All our operations have waste sorting areas for the separation of metals, wood and equipment, and a waste oil collection. Wherever possible we work to reuse or recycle products. Used tires are often integrated into our site landscaping and retaining walls or used to build traffic control islands. 

At Lumwana in Zambia, local artisans come to our waste facilities to collect items like wood to transform into furniture or aluminum to recast into outdoor cooking pots, transforming waste into products for future use and provide a local income. 

Read the full case study in our Sustainability Report

Air emissions control

Mining can create high levels of dust in the air which can cause breathing issues and eye irritation. It can also produce other air pollutants including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. We are committed to robust air pollution management to ensure we maintain our relationships with local communities, keep our employees healthy and to satisfy our permit and license requirements.

See our Sustainability Report for more details.


A smooth road to Loulo-Gounkoto

The haul road leading to and from the Loulo-Gounkoto mine in Mali was tarred in 2019, with exceptional results in dust reduction. Looking back to 2017, the dust fallout was nearly five times that of the international guideline limit. The site experiences its dry season between April to October with consistently warm temperatures throughout the year.

Dust generated from the haul road was an enormous investment of time and resources to control dust fallout but the dust impact to our surrounding communities could still be felt. Before the road was tarred, Barrick was using significant mine water as a dust suppressant, which reduces the amount of water that can be recycled in the mining operation, thus increasing the water demand on site.

 A few options were thoroughly investigated by Barrick to relieve the surrounding communities, and tar was found to be the most effective solution. In the second quarter of 2019, the results start to show a drop in dust to just around the guideline limit of 1,200 mg/m2/day. A year later in the second quarter of 2020, we saw a further reduction, and in 2021, we did not exceed the dust fallout limit the entire year.

Management approach: Waste management

Governance and accountability

Our President and CEO is ultimately responsible for environmental management with our Group Sustainability Executive taking the lead in driving the implementation of our environmental policies, the associated procedures and overall performance - including waste management.

The Group Sustainability Executive is supported by regional-level environmental leads, as well as dedicated site-level environmental teams, who help drive implementation at the operational level.

Policies and procedures

Our approach to waste management is codified in our Environment Policy, and our waste management procedures promote the waste management hierarchy – avoid, reuse and recycle.  

Non-processing waste
We track the volumes of waste we generate and how each waste stream is disposed of, and our aim is reduce the proportion of waste we send to a landfill.

All our operations have waste sorting areas for the separation of metals, wood and equipment, as well as a waste oil collection.  Wherever possible we work to reuse or recycle products.  Used tires for example are often integrated into our site landscaping and retaining walls or used to build traffic control islands. 

For the waste we can’t reuse onsite or in the community, we work to identify local companies to collect, recycle and dispose of our waste for us.  These companies must meet our standards for safe handling and disposal. 

Hazardous waste
We follow a rigorous approach to the management of all hazardous chemicals and reagents. We are aligned with the ICMM position statement on Mercury Risk Management, are a signatory to the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) and member of the International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI).

In terms of cyanide we adhere to best practices for the safe transportation, storage, use and disposal of cyanide. This includes:

  • Conducting regular internal audits against the ICMC;
  • Monitoring local waterbodies and discharge for potential traces of cyanide;
  • Formally tracking all incidents involving cyanide;
  • Training for workers and contractors who handle, transport, and dispose of cyanide;
  • Specialized training and equipment for onsite emergency response teams; and
  • All our cyanide suppliers and transporters must be ICMC certified.

Cyanide management is built on stringent operating permits and standards. We work side by side with the regulators to ensure responsible management of cyanide across our operations and meet all requirements to maintain ICMC certification.  All Barrick’s operational mines, with the exception of Kibali, are ICMC certified.  Kibali is on track to achieve compliance in 2024.

Responsible tailings management and dam safety

We have a group-wide Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard that aligns with international best practice and sets out, how we manage our Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs) starting with choice of location and design through to operation and closure, as well as the key roles required for the management of all TSFs, including Engineer of Record, and a Responsible Person.  It also sets out six levels of inspection and surety for the safe management and operation of TSFs and heap leach pads. This requires governance at all levels to support the approach, and our tailings storage facilities inspections are conducted by site, regional, corporate and external resources, including independent tailings review boards.

At the heart of our approach is safety of people and the environment and our overarching commitment to safety determines how we manage our facilities.  Further details regarding our approach to tailings management, including an inventory of our facilities, is available here.

We are also committed to the implementation of the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM) and were actively involved in its development.

In line with GISTM requirements, our priority facilities will conform to GISTM requirements by August 2023, and our other facilities by August 2025.  Our priority facilities include those with Extreme or Very High Consequence Classifications and includes both operating and closed facilities

Key targets and metrics

  • Independent tailings reviews conducted
  • Percentage of ISO 14001 certified sites maintained
  • GISTM progress
  • Proportion of operational sites achieving annual concurrent reclamation targets.
  • Number of significant environmental incidents
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