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Integrated Annual Report 2019
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Currently viewing: THE ENVIRONMENT / Environmental stewardship | Next: Energy management and climate change


Gold Fields is committed to responsible environmental stewardship, and we seek to improve those areas surrounding our operations and limit the impact on our host communities. To facilitate this, Gold Fields has four Group environment-related policy statements – on environmental stewardship, climate change, materials and supply chain stewardship and water stewardship – and six guidelines on energy and carbon, water management, tailings management, integrated mine closure, biodiversity and environmental incident reporting.

In our approach to environmental stewardship, we also consider external standards, as well as local legislation, supported by risk management, internal policies and strategic priorities. Additional local priorities are identified through stakeholder consultation.

Except for Cerro Corona, which does not use cyanide, all our managed mines are certified in terms of the International Cyanide Management Code, which prescribes how to transport, store, treat, use and dispose of cyanide. Our operations are recertified every three years and identify and address potential gaps in advance. The Asanko mine is considering formal certification in 2020. All our mines, except Gruyere, are currently certified to the ISO 14001 (2015) environmental management standard. Gruyere aims to be certified to the standard in 2020 after a successful readiness review in 2019.

A Group environmental, health and safety scorecard, which includes leading and lagging indicators common to the Group, was finalised in 2019. This scorecard, which will be customised by each mine during 2020, aims to further improve our performance in these areas at an operational level.

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

Group environmental performance

2019   2018   2017   2016   2015  
Environmental incidents (Level 3 and above) 0   2     2   3   5  
Water withdrawal (Gā„“)1 22.3   21.24   33.0   30.3   35.2  
Freshwater withdrawal (Gā„“)1 14.2   14.5     14.8   10.2  
Water recycled/reused (% of total) 68   66     57   59   55  
Electricity purchased (TWh)1 1.25   1.28     1.37   1.40   1.32  
Diesel consumption (TJ)1 6,973   6,599     6,765   6,608   6,930  
Scope 1-3 CO2 emissions (kt)2, 3 1,941   1,852     1,959   1,964   1,753  
Mining waste and tailings (Mt) 189   190     212   187   167  
Gross closure cost estimate (US$m) 436   400     381   381   353  
1 The numbers disclosed only include Gold Fields' managed operations, as head offices are not considered material
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; Scope 3 emissions arise as a consequence of the activities of the Company
4 Significant drop due to the change in definition of water withdrawal to exclude diverted water

Environmental incidents

In 2019, for the first time, Gold Fields recorded no serious environmental incidents (Level 3, 4 or 5). While we have had no Level 4 or 5 incidents in over a decade, our Level 3 incidents have gradually declined over the years, and dropped from two incidents in 2018 to zero in 2019. No Level 3 to 5 incidents remain a key environmental target included in our Group Balanced Scorecard (BSC), and our mines have been making good progress with a renewed focus on environmental management, as well as greater integration of these issues into operational management and community engagement.

A clear benefit of achieving zero Level 3 to 5 incidents is improved relations with those communities adjacent to our operations. During 2019, our community grievances relating to the Cerro Corona mine in Peru and Damang mine in Ghana – where we had two Level 3 incidents in 2018 – declined by 47% to 37 and 10% to 20, respectively.

Going forward, our focus remains on avoiding all Level 3 to 5 incidents and reducing Level 2 incidents to assist in preventing more serious damage. In comparison to 2018, we experienced a significant 46% decrease in Level 2 environmental incidents to 37 during 2019. Our Ghana mines made substantive progress in this area, particularly around blasting and vibration management. Of the 37 Level 2 environmental incidents reported in 2019, 95% were related to blasting and vibrations (23) and loss of containment or spillage (12) type incidents.

Group environmental incidents1
  Year Level 2 incidents   Level 3 – 5 incidents  
  2015 67   5  
  2016 131   3  
  2017 83   2  
  2018 68   2  
  2019 37   0  
1 Levels 1 and 2 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 that result in 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

Conserving biodiversity

Our Group Biodiversity Guideline, updated in 2019, ensures that we address potentially adverse impacts on biodiversity on our mine properties through the application of mitigation measures and integrated land management practices.

We commit to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, and specifically:

  • Neither mine or explore in World Heritage sites, and design and operate our mines in a manner which does not compromise the biodiversity value of any protected area
  • Achieving no net loss of biodiversity for all new projects or major expansions on existing sites

In achieving this, we will engage with stakeholders and consider climate change mitigation and adaptation or resilience efforts. The profile of biodiversity management within Gold Fields has increased materially now that we have received approval to construct a mine at Salares Norte in northern Chile. The environmental approval was, amongst others, dependent on our protection of the habitat of endangered Short-tailed Chinchilla found in the area. During 2019, with the help of academic and government environmental experts, we continued improving the baseline information on the Chinchilla, and are preparing for the relocation of 25 Chinchilla before construction begins on the project.