Gold Fields

Annual Report


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Our business

Environmental stewardship


Gold Fields seeks to enhance the environments in which it operates and limit the impact that mining can cause on the surrounding areas. To manage this, we remain committed to responsible environmental stewardship.

Gold Fields has three Group environment-related policy statements, on environmental stewardship, climate change and materials stewardship, and five environmental guidelines, on energy and carbon management, water management, tailings management, mine closure and biodiversity.Furthermore, all regions are aligning processes to our critical control management approach (Safety).

Our approach to environmental stewardship is guided and informed by several external standards as well as local legislation, supported by risk management, internal policies and priorities. Additional local priorities are identified through stakeholder consultation.

All our mines are certified according to the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC), which prescribes how to manage, treat, transport, store and dispose of cyanide. Our operations work to prepare for recertification audits every three years by helping to identify and address potential gaps in advance. South Deep, Damang and Tarkwa were successfully recertified during 2018 and Q1 2019. Gruyere was recommended for pre-operational certification. However, we are still awaiting confirmation by the International Cyanide Management Institute. Gold Fields does not use mercury for the beneficiation of gold or in any of its processes.

In 2018, we completed the process of recertifying our operations in terms of the new ISO 14001 (2015) environmental management standard. During the year, Agnew, St Ives, Damang, Tarkwa, Cerro Corona and South Deep secured recertification, while an audit will be conducted at Gruyere in 2019. Other than Gruyere, no operation is due for recertification in 2019.

During 2018, risk assessments were completed in all regions on the transport of hazardous materials. No material risks were identified. Opportunities for improvement were found, the most important of which was the construction of a pipeline to deliver gas to our Ghana operations instead of by road (Energy management).

  For details of our environmental management approach, policies and guidelines go to

Environmental incidents

A scale of Level 1 (most minor) is used to 5 (most severe) to report environmental incidents. We have not experienced any Level 4 or 5 environmental incidents over the past ten years.

During 2018, we experienced two Level 3 environmental incidents (2017: two):

  • During the commissioning of Damang's Far East tailings storage facility (FETSF) in April, supernatant water leaked into the external environment. Permeable waste rock overburden, originally believed to represent natural ground during construction, led to the transfer of the liquid to underlying waste rock fill, which had not been identified and from there to an adjacent water body. Deposition was immediately returned into the East TSF (ETSF) and downstream monitoring initiated. The incident was communicated to relevant regulatory bodies and communities adjacent to affected water courses. Drinking water was provided to these communities, though monitoring showed that their water supplies were safe to drink. No lasting environmental impacts were identified, and, after the permeable rock burden was removed, the area was rehabilitated to the original design with a final clay tie-in. The storage facility was recommissioned.
  • On 16 December, over a period of three hours, approximately 180m3 of water containing tailings from the Cerro Corona TSF flowed through an authorised diversion pipe into a creek leading to the Tingo river. A nearby fish farm on the bank of the river was affected. The incident did not compromise the dam's integrity or physical stability. Gold Fields immediately communicated the incident, and subsequently sent a full report, to the environmental authorities. An emergency response team was activated and corrective measures were taken immediately to stop the discharge; within 24 hours the environmental parameters in the river had returned to normal. Rehabilitation of the affected area also started immediately and was completed within 20 days. No fines nor sanctions have as yet been formalised.
Group environmental incidents
Year   Level 2
  Level 3
2014   54   4
2015   67   5
2016   131   3
2017   83   2
2018   68   2

Supporting biodiversity

Our Biodiversity Conservation Practice guideline ensures that we integrate biodiversity conservation into all aspects of mine life, from pre-feasibility to closure. We aim to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity where opportunities arise. Furthermore, we subscribe to the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) Position Statement on Mining and Protected Areas, which includes a commitment to respect protected areas and an undertaking not to explore or mine in World Heritage listed sites. Biodiversity considerations are incorporated into our integrated mine closure and progressive rehabilitation processes.

Two examples indicating our commitment to biodiversity are:

  • During 2018 we invested around US$2.2m in environmental programmes at our Salares Norte project in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, including US$700,000 on initiatives to protect the endangered Short-tailed Chinchilla found in the area. During 2018, with the help of environmental experts, we continued improving our the baseline information on the Chinchilla and worked on a detailed plan and protocol to relocate them if the EIA is approved.
  • The St Ives operations in Western Australia extend over a large salt-lake system known as Lake Lefroy. In recent years, the riparian (bank) zones of such salt lake systems have been recognised as areas of sensitive biodiversity. The current mining disturbance of the Lake Lefroy riparian zone by St Ives and other mining companies is limited to 90ha or 2.5% of the riparian habitat. St Ives has undertaken numerous ecological studies and monitoring programmes in the area. The studies indicate that, outside of the physical disturbance of a small portion of the riparian zone, mining and related activities have no discernible impact on the area's biodiversity. Nonetheless, as part of the Beyond 2018 project at St Ives, regulatory approval of which is still awaited, we have included protection measures for Lake Lefroy's fauna.
Exploration drilling at Lake Lefroy