|Water withdrawal (MI)
|Water quality (mS/m)
|Closure costs (US$ million)
The environmental impact of our operations is one of Gold Fields’ most important sustainability issues, particularly as the mining sector is the focus of much criticism regarding its considerable environmental footprint. Most recently, scrutiny has focused on the dewatering of underground mines, acid mine drainage (AMD), leaching from tailings dams and the carbon footprint of gold mining. Gold Fields is acutely aware of these issues; unless they are dealt with effectively they will have an adverse impact on our goal of being the global leader in sustainable gold mining.
Guided by the principles of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) through our membership and the United Nations Global Compact, our environmental policy statement commits us to continually improving our environmental performance and reducing our environmental footprint.
During the year under review our Peruvian mine, Cerro Corona, became the last of our operations to be ISO 14001:2004 certified. The ISO 14001 standards, together with the company’s sustainable development framework and dedicated environmental management structures, govern the way in which Gold Fields identifies, manages and mitigates its key environmental risks. We view legal compliance as an absolute non-negotiable and maintain an ongoing dialogue with government, communities, NGOs, environmental interest groups and key stakeholders on how we manage our environmental impact.
Engaging with stakeholders on environmental issues
Neighbouring communities are key stakeholders in Gold Fields’ environmental footprint and the company has formed dedicated environmental engagement forums with many of these communities. In the South America Region, for example, community representatives regularly meet with the company’s environmental management team and play an important monitoring and participatory role.
Environmental impact is also a key issue when the company conducts exploration for new mining opportunities. The ability to mine in an environmentally sustainable way is a key consideration when investigating the exploration potential of an area.
In the South Africa Region, Gold Fields was instrumental in forming and currently chairs the Mining Interest Group (MIG), through which the industry collectively approaches water management in the area, including the Wonderfonteinspruit river. The company is also represented on the Far West Rand Dolomitic Water Association, which engages with farmers and other stakeholders on dewatering and water quality issues.
Ongoing interactions with stakeholders in these engagement platforms, together with internallygenerated risk reviews, have highlighted water, land management and waste as our most material environmental issues (see the supply chain management and material stewardship section for information on waste management).
The dewatering of mines, acid mine drainage(AMD), water quality and water availability are headline environmental issues in all regions in which Gold Fields operates. The graphs alongside illustrate the improvements made in water usage and quality during the year under review. Total water withdrawal for the year amounted to 63 million kl, while a total of 77 million kl was discharged. The average quality of water discharged for the year was 70.43 milli-Siemens/metre (mS/m), which is acceptable by international mining standards. Our draft water licences for the South African mines contain an inherent requirement to ensure that our discharges conform to a maximum limit of 60 milli-Siemens/meter within the next few years. Our water strategy will address how we can achieve this requirement within the stipulated timeframe. Negotiations with the Department of Water Affairs are ongoing.
South Africa Region
AMD poses the most pressing environmental risk in the South Africa Region and is a key component of the company’s water strategy. This strategy makes provision for, amongst others, characterisation of the groundwater plumes, separation of clean and dirty water and mapping and monitoring of underground plumes. Waiting for the mines to close before dealing with the risk of AMD has proven disastrous for a number of other South African mining operations. Gold Fields’ water strategy is designed to avoid this scenario and to ensure a long-term solution.
To improve our water monitoring systems, we piloted a continuous water monitoring system at Driefontein during the year (see case study, page 113), which will be rolled out in the catchment area in the current year. The company also approved a R21 million three-year investment in a proprietary software system to consolidate all environmental data and generate interpretative reports and trend analyses.
Kloof is the only one of our South African operations that has received a new water licence from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The other mines have received draft licences and are in negotiations to receive their new licences.
Gold Fields’ long-term strategy for dealing with the risk of uranium in mining waste and water is to investigate the treatment of water and waste by removing the uranium to ensure that levels are kept within limits set by the World Health Organisation. Currently we have bio-dams and settling dams in place to ensure uranium levels remain within the legislated limits. The company is also actively involved in industry initiatives investigating the potential benefits and pitfalls of removing tailings dams off permeable dolomite sites to prevent groundwater pollution. In the long term we are also looking at options to extract uranium from tailings for commercial purposes.
South America Region
Water quality is the key environmental consideration and the issue most frequently raised by communities at the Cerro Corona Mine in Peru. The company submits water samples, taken in conjunction with community representatives, to the relevant authorities on a monthly basis and water quality is externally audited every six months. In most instances these samples indicate that water quality exceeds the standards required by legislation.
However, communities downstream of the mine continue to raise water quality as an issue. In response the company has asked the authorities to conduct an external and independent study in areas outside the mine’s direct area of influence, and devised an externally approved water monitoring system for the area. As part of our community programme we invested in a rehabilitation plant for the Tingo River, even though it is unrelated to and far from our operation.
In one of the adjoining valleys to the Cerro Corona Mine are two springs known as SP7 and SP11. Though these springs cannot necessarily be geologically linked to the mine, as a proactive measure we commenced discussions with the landowners to obtain permission to monitor the quality of the water discharged from the springs. We have now reached agreement with the landowner to allow us to monitor the quality on an ongoing basis (monitoring has commenced during the year) and to discuss potential action plans should any deterioration of the water quality occur.
West Africa Region
We previously reported that sulphuric material had been discovered in one of the pits at the Tarkwa operation in Ghana. Samples taken during the year indicated that water quality at this pit is not significantly different from the other pits and that the effect of the sulphides is therefore not significant.
Water issues in Australia relate chiefly to ongoing supply of processquality water. Such water is currently sourced from borefields close to the Agnew and St Ives Mines but both operations have begun sourcing alternative water supplies. Additional sources include groundwater from a decommissioned open-pit near Agnew and water from a freshwater dam near St Ives.
Land management and biodiversity
As the western side of the Driefontein Mine has been identified by authorities as a potential protected environmental area, the company has commissioned an independent baseline study to determine the level of biodiversity in the area and inform an appropriate management strategy. This will serve as a pilot programme for other South African operations.
In Africa Gold Fields is a founder and active member of Leadership for Conservation Africa (LCA), an organisation that brings together business and environmental organisations to pursue conservation-led socio-economic development.
The LCA Board uses its international network of leading business and governmental leaders to promote LCA initiatives, and to support specific conservation-driven development projects in each of the respective member countries.
In 2010 Gold Fields doubled its contribution to the LCA and took the lead in developing two potential projects in Ghana: the Cape Three Point coastal forest reserve and the Shai Hills savannah reserve. It is envisaged that both will be taken to feasibility study in the near future under Gold Fields’ leadership.
The LCA, which enjoys support from 16 African countries and leading companies operating in Africa, believes that conservationdriven development can contribute significantly to the socioeconomic well-being of rural Africa, while sustaining habitats and wildlife for future generations.
The shores of Lake Lefroy near Australia’s St Ives operation are areas of sensitive biodiversity which could be disrupted through overclearing. However, internal and external permitting systems are in place and clearing activity is monitored by environmental authorities on an ongoing basis.
Gold Fields has an established incident reporting system ranging from Level 1 to Level 5. The incident levels are categorised in the glossary at the back of the annual report.
Our trends show a sustained increase in Level 2 incidences from 181 in financial 2009 to 223 in financial 2010, which, in part, reflects an improved reporting standard for environmental incidences. This has enabled us to become more proactive in our response and prevent incidences from occurring in future. During the year the number of Level 3 incidences was unchanged at seven. Level 3 incidents are detailed on our website at www.goldfields.co.za.