SUSTAINABILITY Environmental management

Environmental management

OVERVIEW

Gold Fields is committed to sound environmental stewardship, and we aim to responsibly use the natural resources our business depends on, care for the environment in our operational and surrounding areas and limit the impact of our operations on our host communities.

To guide this commitment, we developed five Group environment-related policy statements – on environmental stewardship, water stewardship, tailings management, materials and supply chain stewardship and climate change – which, together with mine closure, highlight our key focus areas. Our policy statements are further supported by six guidelines relating to environmental incident reporting, biodiversity, water management, tailings management, integrated mine closure, and energy and carbon management. Our Stakeholder Relationship and Engagement Policy Statement also commits us to engagement with communities and governments on environmental matters that could potentially impact them.

Our approach to environmental stewardship requires that we first and foremost consider local legislation and regulations, as well as relevant external standards. Additional local priorities are identified through stakeholder consultations. Our overriding policy guide is the Group Environment Policy Statement, which was updated and approved by the Board in February 2021.

All our operations are certified to the ISO 14001 (2015) environmental management standard. Our newest mine, Gruyere in Western Australia, obtained certification to both the ISO 14001 standard and the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) during 2020. In South Africa, South Deep expanded the scope of its ISO 14001 certification to include underground operations in 2020. All our managed mines – except for Cerro Corona, which does not use cyanide – are currently certified to the ICMC, which assures their responsible handling and transportation of cyanide. While our operations are recertified every three years, as required by the code, we identify and address potential gaps on a continuous basis.

In August 2020, Gold Fields formally committed to implementing the GISTM over a five-year period (see Environmental stewardship).

During 2020, we launched our inaugural Company-wide EHS scorecard to ensure that our Group, regional and operational management teams are held accountable for successfully managing EHS issues. The scorecard includes both leading and lagging performance indicators to improve performance at an operational level. Pleasingly, all regions exceeded their target of an 80% score – a substantial achievement for the Group in 2020.

Gold Fields recorded no serious environmental incidents (Level 3 – 5) during 2020. This is the second consecutive year we achieved this, signalling not only our sound environmental stewardship, but also the limited impact of our operations on neighbouring communities. Recording zero serious environmental incidents is a strategic priority for the Group and is included as a key target our management teams' performance scorecards.

In addition to the above, and continuing a downward trend from 2019, the number of Level 2 environmental incidents decreased significantly by 68% to 12 in 2020 (2019: 37). Of these incidents, eight related to loss of containment or spillage-type incidents (2019: 12), and three related to blasting and vibration (2019: 23). We managed to contain these incidents to our immediate mining footprint or vicinity, and the mitigating actions taken ensured the incidents resulted in limited to no environmental impact.

Group environmental performance

  2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Environmental incidents (Level 3 – 5)1 0 0 2 2 3
Environmental incidents (Level 2)1 12 37 68 83 131
Water withdrawal (Gℓ) 21.7 22.3 21.2 33.0 30.3
Freshwater withdrawal (Gℓ) 10.00 14.2 14.5 14.8 10.2
Water recycled/reused (% of total) 71 68 66 57 59
Electricity purchased (TWh) 1.20 1.25 1.28 1.37 1.40
Diesel consumption (TJ) 6,788 6,973 6,599 6,765 6,608
Scope 1 – 3 CO2 emissions (kt)2, 3 1,969 1,941 1,852 1,959 1,964
Mining waste and tailings (Mt) 200 189 190 212 187
Gross closure cost estimate (US$m) 467 436 400 381 381
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 non-compliances, which could result in long-term environmental harm, with company or operation-threatening implications and potential damage to company reputation. Our operations also align with all regulatory environmental reporting requirements in their countries of operation
2 The CO2 emission numbers include head offices and comprise Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions
3 Scope 1 emissions are those arising directly from sources managed by the Company, Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions generated in the production of electricity used by the Company, and Scope 3 emissions arise as a consequence of the activities of the Company
ESG PRIORITIES

During 2020, we initiated the process of developing our Group ESG Charter, which is driven by a cross-functional and multi-disciplinary team. Our strategic ESG priorities act as a guiding framework to creating impact in line with the Company's vision of global leadership in sustainable gold mining. Environmental management is a critical component of this work.

Our key strategic priorities are to pursue decarbonisation in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement (which commits us to carbon neutrality by 2050), build resilience to climate change and reduce our consumption of water. We aim to reduce our carbon emissions and freshwater use, as well as our exposure to climate-related risks to operations, stakeholders and the environment. The strategic intent underpinning these priorities are:

  • Continue pursuing reductions in carbon emissions at all our operations
  • Increase Group renewable energy use and include at least 20% renewables in all new projects
  • Introduce electric vehicles in our underground operations
  • Reduce freshwater use and optimise Group water recycling and reuse levels

 

We expect to disclose our 2025 ESG Charter targets during H2 2021.

Biodiversity management
  • Our teams seek to address any potentially adverse impacts on the fauna and flora from our operations through specific mitigation measures, as well as integrated land and water management practices. Our efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change will also benefit the local environment.

    Strict adherence to all relevant legal and permit requirements is a prerequisite, as is engagement with relevant local stakeholders.

    We continue to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, by:

    • Neither mining nor exploring in World Heritage sites
    • Designing and operating our mines in a way that does not compromise the biodiversity values of any protected area
    • Striving for zero net loss of biodiversity for all new projects or major expansions on existing sites

    Our commitment to biodiversity is evident at our Salares Norte project in the Andes Mountains in Chile's Atacama region, where construction commenced during 2020. We are working with environmental specialists and biologists to ensure the protection of the Short-tailed Chinchillas, which is a protected species in Chile. We are doing so by establishing a compensation and conservation area away from the planned active mining and exploration zones, declaring no-go zones where we cannot operate or actively explore, and relocating a small fraction of the population of Chinchillas that live in future mining zones to a new location 5km away. At the same time, as part of government's programme for protected species, we are using tools, such as camera traps, permanent electronic monitoring and genetic studies, to enhance baseline information and scientific knowledge of the Chinchilla.

    The Chinchilla capture and relocation process, which began in August 2020, is a key aspect of the environmental approval for Salares Norte and requires that we capture and relocate the animals from future mining areas to temporary relocation zones before full release. Two of the four Chinchillas moved passed away at the relocation area, prior to their full release. The post-mortem analysis by independent experts recommended changes to future capture and relocation practices, which we are implementing together with environmental experts and in consultation with the regulator.

  • Revegetation at a disused TSF at the Tarkwa mine in Ghana

    As part of these improvements, the possibility of shortening the adaptation time in the temporary enclosures and releasing the animals when they are in optimum physical condition is being examined. The implementation of the new measures will allow for better preventive controls during the programme once the relocation activities resume.

    Should the regulator lift the temporary halt to all relocations in H1 2021, we expect to resume relocation only later in 2021 as the programme is paused during winter. While the 2021 and 2022 construction progress will not be impacted by delays in the relocation programme beyond 2021, it could make longer-term planning of the project beyond those dates more complex.