SUSTAINABILITY Waste management
We manage waste in accordance with a waste management hierarchy through which we aim to prevent or reduce waste generation. Where we do generate waste, we aim to reuse, recycle or treat waste prior to disposal. One of the ultimate goals of our Innovation and Technology strategy, termed “Gold Fields Mine of the Future”, is to seek to significantly reduce the mining waste generated by our business.
Hazardous waste typically consists of materials such as hydrocarbons (oil, grease, emulsions, hydrocarbon-contaminated materials, oily water), chemicals (packaging/ expired or unused chemicals/ solvents/ other), batteries, medical waste, etc. All Gold Fields’ mines and projects have risk based procedures and processes in place. These are part of their Environmental Management Systems, which ensure that hazardous waste is collected, stored, transported and disposed of in a controlled manner that prevents environmental impact. Our hazardous waste is managed in accordance with statutory requirements and hazardous wastes are disposed of at designated, specially constructed, controlled and permitted hazardous landfill sites. Where remote mine operations do not have access to hazardous landfill sites, hazardous wastes are stored and / or disposed of in designated hazardous waste management landfill cells that are engineered to safely contain the waste, prevent environmental and potential social impacts, are rigorously managed and are permitted by the regulator.
Non-hazardous waste includes general landfill waste, non-contaminated metal waste, plastic waste, timber waste and paper or carton waste.
Recycled ‘waste’ typically consists of any hazardous or non-hazardous material that can be recycled, such as paper, plastic, glass, metal etc. Hydrocarbon waste from our operations can also be recycled. For reporting purposes, we also consider non-contaminated timber that can be reused for firewood as recycled waste.
From a waste management perspective, we consider ‘brine’ to be the by-product or precipitate of a water treatment process, such as reverse osmosis. Brine is classified and managed as a hazardous waste (on or off-site).
To prevent ambiguity, the term ‘brine’ does not include an effluent emission that is saline, hypersaline or has a high total dissolved or suspended solid content and which may be discharged under controlled and permitted conditions. This type of effluent is not hazardous and reported under GRI Standard 306-1 “Water discharge by quality and destination”. Refer to our Gold Fields GRI Report 2019 for further details.
Total Group waste rock mined decreased 5% in 2019, due to completion of the Gruyere mine construction and lower volumes from the Damang Reinvestment project.
Gold Fields has set a target to maintain general landfill waste mass (non-hazardous waste other than tailings and waste rock) at 2015 levels of 11.2Mt, by ensuring a reduction in the waste that reaches landfill through greater use of on-site waste separation and recycling. During 2019, however, the Group's landfill waste rose to 12.8Mt from 9.0Mt in 2018 as gold production picked up. The disposal of hazardous waste declined from 1.5Mt in 2018 to 1.3Mt in 2019, while the amount of metal and material recycled and reused dropped to 13.8Mt (2018: 20.0Mt). Half of all hazardous and non-hazardous waste produced by our mines was recycled or reused, mostly by external service providers.