Creating enduring value beyond mining

Environmental stewardship

To guide our commitment to environmental stewardship, we developed five Group policy statements – on environmental stewardship (updated in 2021), water stewardship, tailings management, materials and supply chain stewardship (also updated in 2021), and climate change – which, together with our mine closure guideline, highlight our focus areas.

Our focus is underpinned by strict adherence to local legislation and regulations, as well as compliance and alignment with several leading external environmental and reporting standards. Our commitment to environmental stewardship also requires avoiding or, where that is not possible, mitigating any adverse environmental impacts our operations have on our stakeholders, particularly host communities. This is supported by our regional environmental management strategies as well as proactive engagement and communication with stakeholders on environmental matters.

In 2021, we completed an extensive process of identifying our key ESG priorities and developing comprehensive strategies to achieve ambitious 2030 targets for six of these priorities. In the environmental space, our key strategic ESG-related priorities are to:

  • Reduce our net Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 30% and our absolute emissions by 50% (from our 2016 baseline) and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 Climate change and energy management
  • Continue to achieve zero serious environmental incidents every year Environmental stewardship
  • Implement the GISTM across our operations by 2025 and reduce the number of active upstream raised TSFs from five to three Tailings and waste management
  • Reduce our consumption of freshwater by 45% from our 2018 baseline and recycle and reuse 80% of our total water usage Water management

Our focus on critical control management leads to strong performance against our internal environment, health and safety (EHS) scorecards and, for the second consecutive year, all operations exceeded our internal target of at least 80% compliance with these scorecards.

All our operations are certified in terms of the ISO 14001 environmental management system and, except for Cerro Corona, which does not use cyanide, are certified to the International Cyanide Management Code.

Group environmental performance

  2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
Environmental incidents (Level 3 – 5)1 2 2
Environmental incidents (Level 2)1 7 12 37 68 83
Water withdrawal (Gℓ) 18.5 21.7 22.3 21.2 33
Freshwater withdrawal (Gℓ) 9.4 10 14.2 14.5 14.8
Water recycled/reused (% of total) 75 71 68 66 57
Total energy use (PJ) 13.90 13.13 12.50 11.63 12.18
Electricity purchased (TWh) 1.28 1.20 1.25 1.28 1.37
Renewable electricity (% of total, excluding hydro)2 4.3 3.2 0.2
Diesel consumption (TJ) 7,121 6,788 6,973 6,599 6,765
Scope 1 – 2 CO2 emissions (kt)3, 4, 5 1,714 1,606 1,611 1,506 1,611
Scope 3 CO2 emissions (kt)3, 4, 5 542 518 484 484 485
Mining waste and tailings (Mt) 213 200 189 190 212
Gross closure cost estimate (US$m) 510 467 436 400 381
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 During March 2022, Cerro Corona received certification that its 2021 grid electricity supply was 100% renewable. On this basis, 12.5% of Gold Fields’ 2021 electricity use was from renewable sources. Our 2021 and prior data will be restated once due diligence has been performed on the new information
3 The CO2 emission numbers include head offices
4 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 are indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the activities of the Company
5 Restated 2016 to 2020 numbers for Group, West Africa and Americas due to updated emission factors in line with ISO 14064

Zero serious environmental incidents

Our environmental incidents are classified by type and severity on a scale from Level 1 to Level 5, with Level 5 being the most severe as these incidents could seriously impact our operations, communities and the environment. We have not recorded a Level 4 or Level 5 incident in over a decade, and no Level 3 incident since 2018. We continue to track and manage our less serious Level 2 environmental incidents and reported a total of seven such incidents in 2021, down from 12 in 2020 and 37 in 2019. All Level 2 environmental incidents are contained to our immediate mining footprint or vicinity, and the mitigating actions taken to ensure the incidents result in limited to no environmental impact.


Our commitment to the conservation of biodiversity compels us to:

  • Neither mine nor explore in World Heritage sites
  • Design and operate our mines in a way that does not compromise the biodiversity values of any protected area
  • Strive for net zero loss of biodiversity for all new projects and major expansions on existing sites
  • Contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land-use planning

Our belief that sustainable mining activities can coexist with biodiversity conservation is evident at our Salares Norte project in the Atacama province of northern Chile.

We developed a comprehensive strategy for the protection, relocation and habitat conservation of the endangered short-tailed chinchilla. Neither the construction nor early-stage mining at Salares Norte will impact the habitat of the species, but longer-term mining plans require successful relocation of some chinchilla to nearby areas.

The chinchilla strategy focuses on five key areas:

  • Biodiversity conservation and biodiversity "net gain"
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement around the protection of the chinchilla
  • Conservation initiatives aimed at strengthening our social licence to operate
  • Enhancing knowledge about biodiversity in the region in collaboration with stakeholders
  • Establishing and strengthening of local alliances

The formal chinchilla rescue and relocation plan began in October 2020 with the capture and relocation of four chinchillas in compliance with the environmental permit requirements. Two of the four chinchillas did not survive the relocation, while two were relocated successfully and remain healthy and thriving. Due to the loss of two chinchillas, the environmental regulator (SMA) issued a notice to suspend the rescue and relocation plan. By mid-March 2022, no further relocations had been undertaken.

In December 2021, the SMA commenced sanction proceedings against the Salares Norte project due to infringements in the relocation of the chinchillas. The sanction proceedings required administrative and technical improvements in the relocation of chinchilla residing in the project area, and an updated compliance programme was submitted to the SMA in response to these proceedings. We continue to engage with the regulator and other stakeholders – including independent environmental experts – in implementing the programme.

In South Africa, construction of the solar plant at South Deep also required the relocation of certain plant species, which was executed successfully.