SUSTAINABILITY Environmental management
To guide our commitment to environmental stewardship, we developed five Group policy statements – on environmental stewardship, water stewardship, tailings management, materials and supply chain stewardship, and climate change (updated in 2022) – which, with our mine closure guideline, highlight our focus areas.
As a minimum, we strictly adhere to local legislation and regulations and comply and align with several leading external environmental and reporting standards. Our commitment to responsible stewardship of natural resources and the environment requires continuous innovation to prevent or mitigate any adverse impacts our operations have on the environment and our stakeholders, particularly our host communities. This is underpinned by regional safety, health and sustainable development strategies, as well as proactive engagement and communication with stakeholders on environmental matters.
Our relevant environmental 2030 ESG targets cover our priorities in the areas of carbon emissions, environmental incidents, tailings management and water stewardship.
All our operations remain certified to the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard and the International Cyanide Management Code, excluding Cerro Corona, which does not use cyanide.
The Group met its 2022 target of zero serious environmental incidents, in line with our 2030 ESG target.
Our environmental incidents are classified by type and severity from Level 1 to Level 5. Level 5 is the most severe, as these incidents could seriously impact our operations, communities and the environment. We consider Level 3 – 5 incidents as serious environmental incidents. We have not recorded a Level 4 or Level 5 incident in over a decade or a Level 3 incident since 2018.
We continue to track and manage our less serious Level 2 environmental incidents, which assists us in preventing more serious incidents. Although Level 2 incidents increased from 2021, we are on a downward improving trend over the past five years.
Five of the Level 2 environmental incidents recorded in 2022 related to a loss of containment and four related to biodiversity or wildlife mortalities. We have initiated detailed investigations into a wildlife mortality event in 2022 that reoccurred in January 2023 at the Agnew mine, where deceased ducks were found at its facilities. The investigations are considering possible mining-related or natural causes that could have contributed to the mortalities. We have classified the 2022 event as a serious potential incident to prevent repeat incidents.
Group environmental incidents1
|Level 3 – 5||Level 2|
|1||Level 1 and 2 environmental incidents involve minor incidents or non-conformances with negligible or short-term limited impact. A Level 3 incident results in limited non-conformance or non-compliance with ongoing but limited environmental impact. Level 4 and 5 incidents include major non-conformances or noncompliances, which could result in long-term environmental harm, with Company or operation-threatening implications and potential damage to Company reputation|
Our commitment to nature, including biodiversity conservation, guides us to:
Our commitment aligns with the ICMM Performance Expectations, and our independently verified self-assessment includes no net loss for major expansions and projects and application of the mitigation hierarchy in our biodiversity management.
Our strategy supports our commitment to sustainable mining coexisting with nature conservation. We are mitigating a key nature risk at the Salares Norte project in Chile, where we developed a strategy to rescue and relocate Short-tailed Chinchillas. The strategy focuses on nature conservation and achieving “net gain” in the region. We continuously engage with various stakeholders – including independent environmental experts – to carry it out effectively.
The formal Chinchilla rescue and relocation plan started in October 2020 but was halted by the regulator after the loss of two Chinchillas. For more details, see p85.
South Deep has drafted a five-year biodiversity action plan that seeks to conserve and reintroduce flora and fauna species on its property, protects wetlands and other ecosystems and removes invasive species. The plan also includes engagement and awareness programmes with surrounding communities.