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Responsible Tailings Management & Dam Safety

Responsible Tailings Management & Dam Safety

We continuously monitor and review the potential of our TSFs to affect the environment or the health, safety and human rights of others.

Tailings are the material left over following the processing and extraction of metals from mined ore. It primarily consists of crushed rock, some water and the residual processing chemicals. Tailings typically leave the processing plant as a slurry of fine mineral particles and water. It is our most significant waste stream and must be carefully managed to avoid harm to people or the environment.

We have a laser-like focus regarding tailings management and our approach includes consideration of industry leading practices such as enhanced dewatering, backfill and in-pit tailings deposition to identify opportunities to reduce above-ground deposition and the physical and environmental risk associated with these facilities.

The bulk of our operations dispose of tailings in the following ways:

  • Backfilling – Thickening materials are mixed with the tailings slurry and this mixture is then integrated into materials used to backfill pits or mined-out underground stopes.
  • Storage facilities – Treated slurry is pumped into specifically designed and engineered repositories known as TSFs.

We also have one operation, Porgera in Papua New Guinea, that utilizes riverine tailings disposal methods. Riverine disposal is not our favored method. However, geographical context, specifically active seismic tectonics and heavy rainfall, our risk based assessments and feedback from independent third parties have shown riverine disposal to be the most appropriate risk- based option. Further details regarding our approach to riverine tailings can be found here.

Our Approach to Tailings Management

At the heart of our approach is the safety of people and the environment and a commitment to safety determines how we manage our facilities. We are committed to the requirements of the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management and, following the Brumadinho tragedy, we were members of the industry representatives that worked with the ICMM and UN-backed Principles of Responsible Investment to help develop the standard.

We have a group-wide Tailings and Heap Leach Management Standard that sets out how we manage our TSFs and their associated risks starting with siting and 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. More importantly, it establishes design, operation and closure performance standards that all TSFs must comply with. 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.

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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Aligning to GISTM

We currently manage 18 active and 40 closed tailings facilities. We were active industry participants in the development of the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management and, since 2020, we have worked to review and align all our TSFs with the requirements of GISTM. Through the reviews, we developed a prioritized list of actions we need to take to reduce the risks at each of our TSFs to the lowest possible level.

In 2023, in line with our standard and GISTM requirements, only 14 of the tailings storage facilities we own or operate are classified as ‘Extreme’ (five facilities) or ‘Very High’ (nine facilities) under the GISTM. All 14 of these facilities conform with the requirements of the GISTM. Two facilities (Giant Nickel’s Upper and Lower TSFs) are classified as being in ‘Safe Closure’ and are therefore not subject to the disclosure requirements of the GISTM, while one facility (Zaldivar TSF) is operated by a joint venture partner and is therefore not included in Barrick’s GISTM disclosures. In line with GISTM requirements, our priority facilities (those with Extreme or Very High consequence classifications) conformed to GISTM requirements by August 2023.

In 2023, independent reviews of our Carlin-Goldstrike, Carlin-Gold Quarry, Lumwana, Pueblo Viejo, Turquoise Ridge, Giant Nickel, Grants, El Indio, and Tambo TSFs were undertaken in line with our standard and GISTM requirements. Our work toward achieving GISTM conformance for our remaining, lower consequence facilities will continue through 2024 and 2025.

Multiple Alternatives Assessments

We are currently planning new or expanded TSFs at our Pueblo Viejo, Lumwana, Kibali and Loulo mines. For all these new or expanded facilities, we have worked to implement GISTM requirements including Multiple Alternatives Assessments (MAA). The MAA process considers a range of factors including environmental, social, technical and economic factors when siting and designing a new facility. In line with our commitment to sustainability, we weight environmental, social and economic factors as part of the assessment process and informed by site. This has resulted in the selection of a site which will cost more but will have less impact from an environmental and social perspective.

Reducing Riverine Tailings at Porgera

The Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) utilizes riverine tailings disposal methods. This means rather than depositing tailings on a TSF the tailings and erodible rock are released into the nearby Porgera River. This method of tailings disposal is not our preferred method of tailings management; however, the area is prone to heavy rain and earthquakes, which means a traditional tailings impoundment would be at very high risk of collapse. Based on the risk profile, a riverine tailings system is currently the best tailings disposal solution for PJV as it poses the lowest risk to human health, local communities and the environment.

Further to this naturally high sediment loads in the Porgera River mean it has never been a source of drinking water for local communities. but regardless of local water quality, we take care to ensure we are managing and minimizing the risks associated with riverine disposal.

For example prior to discharge Porgera’s tailings undergo a two-stage treatment process to comply with stringer discharge criteria. This include a series of chemical processes to destroy cyanide and raise the pH level of the water. A tailings plant has also been built so that some of the tailing’s material can be used as cemented backfill in the underground workings. These actions have already helped to reduce the volume of tailings entering the Porgera river. As Porgera’s restart ramps up we are working to further develop and implement our tailing reduction roadmap for Porgera.

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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