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Environmental impacts

Mining impacts the physical environment including the land, air, water and other important resources that we share with others. Our stakeholders expect us to manage and minimize any negative impacts our operations may have on the environment and we are committed to do so. That is not just the right thing to do, it makes sound business sense; poor environmental management can cause long-term damage to community relations, incur legal penalties and erode a company’s reputation.

We see this as a fundamental responsibility of any modern mining company.

Management approach

Management approach

Our Environmental Policy outlines our commitment to use natural resources efficiently and to protect, restore and enrich the local environment where possible, with the overarching aim of avoiding environmental incidents. It is informed by international best practice including the IFC Performance Standards.

Technical Expertise and Transparent Management Helping Re-Build Trust at Veladero

In March 2017, the monitoring system at our Veladero site in west-central Argentina detected a rupture of a pipe carrying gold-bearing solution. The spill was contained within the operating site and the spill did not reach either the diversion channels or enter any watercourses. All affected soil was promptly excavated and placed on the leach pad. Although appropriate corrective measures were taken quickly, this was the third cyanide-related incident reported in three years at Veladero.

Thus, it became a critical priority for our site environment team to strengthen management in 2018, working together with Shandong, our joint-venture partner at the mine.

We identified both technical and management improvements at the site and have taken a twin-track and fully transparent, approach to fixing both of these.

Enhanced containment

The first priority following the March 2017 incident was to put additional investment into the leach pad and pumping systems and since then Barrick has invested over $12 million to improve containment around the leach pad and to reinforce all pipelines.

This has included the development of a new containment channel as an additional buffer against leakages at the south perimeter, the installation of more heat- and pressure-resistant pipes from the leach pad and burying these pipes in line with international best practice.

Also, the future pipeline roadway location has been redesigned in the center of the leach pad so that if a spill occurs in the future, it will fall within the lined collection system, reducing the hazard risk.

Change at the top

On the management side, there has been a comprehensive overhaul of the management team at Veladero since 2017, with new executives in place throughout the senior team. An updated management system that is certified to the International Cyanide Management Code is in place and the mine continues to use the international ISO 14001 environmental management standard.

In an effort to rebuild trust with local stakeholders, the new management team at Veladero has enabled local authorities to conduct technical audits of the relevant facilities every week. The mine now also puts all relevant operating data on a live online feed so that regulators, local communities and others can monitor the system.

Lots done, lots still to do

We are highly encouraged that there have been no further cyanide-related incidents at Veladero since this work began and that community perception surveys are showing more positive opinions of the mine. It is also reassuring that the Argentine Government has recently approved testing to increase our permit limit and production rate at Veladero.

Trust however takes a long time to rebuild and we are committed to not letting complacency creep in at the operation. We continue to closely monitor, manage and improve all aspects of environmental management at the site.

Case Study Environmental Impacts

Managing water responsibly

Managing water responsibly is one of the most important challenges facing the mining industry – and Barrick – today. Water is essential to the health and well-being of local communities near our mines and access to water is a human right that must be respected. Water is also an essential input for mining activities at every stage of the Life of Mine. This interdependence means that if not properly managed our water use can have a direct impact on the livelihoods and rights of local stakeholders. On the other hand, we also believe that our commitment to sustainable development brings an opportunity to expand and improve access to water near our mines.

A Focus on Freshwater and Water Conservation at Loulo

Our Loulo mine in Mali borders a semi-arid climate zone where evaporation rates often exceed rainfall. In 2018, the evaporation rate was 1,400mm, but the area only experienced 1,034mm of rain. Our site water management plan prioritizes water conservation and sets freshwater water consumption reduction targets for the processing plant and underground mining.

In 2018, we increased water recycling rates by 10% by increasing our use of water stored at the TSF for mining processes that do not require freshwater such as ore processing and running the slurry plant. For an investment of $600,000 in new plumbing and equipment, we managed to halve our daily processing freshwater usage from approximately 5,000m3 to 2,500m3.

Our water conservation efforts help ensure we do not reduce the water available to other users. Going further, we recognize that clean water availability in the region is naturally limited and so we have built 57 water access points for villages around the mine. $94,000 was invested in community potable water this year alone. The community was involved in the whole process and a water management committee is established in every village to sustainably manage the water points.

“The Bantankoto village chief stated that he is very happy with the construction of these water points which improve the general living conditions of the area and particularly ease the life of local women as they previously had to queue for hours for water from a source several kilometers away. The water was unclean and caused health problems. The Mahinamine village chief stated that they know how the mine benefited local people, even beyond the drinking water issue, because they remember what life was like before the mine came.”

Mohammed Keita,
Environmental Superintendent responsible for water, Loulo

Case Study Managing Water Responsibly

Water Management in a Water Stressed Area

As Nevada is a water stressed state, maintaining awareness of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is an integral part of our site-level risk analysis. It is our goal to improve our fresh water consumption efficiencies and maximize reuse and recycling of water in all of our processing facilities. Consequently, with all of the water at our Nevada mine sites being sourced from underground aquifers via deep production wells, all excess mine water is discharged to underground aquifers via rapid infiltration basins or various irrigation programs at Barrick-owned ranches.

In order to prevent contamination of clean waters, all process solutions are managed separately from the water management system and are never discharged offsite unless they meet the strictest water quality standards and promote improved water recycling. For example, at our Goldstrike Mine, excess process water was being routed to a tailings facility where the water was subject to entrainment or being lost to evaporation. A plan was developed for a water treatment plant that ultimately recovered about 25% of this excess water and used it for other mining activities, including dust suppression. As water quality and water quantity are consistently recognized as major environmental risks during Company risk assessments conducted at our Nevada mine sites, these water management strategies are implemented to minimize threats to water quality in proximity to metal processing facilities and to promote open pit highwall stability and safe underground mining activities while encouraging responsible water stewardship.

“These water management responsibilities extend beyond our active mining operations and are practiced at our sites currently in closure. For instance, the Bullfrog open pit was backfilled in 2018 to a level above the existing water table. This ultimately prevented the formation of a lake which could have increased water loss through evaporation and exposed the groundwater system to contaminants from the surface. In Nevada’s arid climate, water maintains a higher value than it would in a less water- stressed community. Therefore, it is our responsibility, priority and privilege to manage our water with the highest standard of care and efficiency.”

Amy Allen, Chief Water Resources Engineer, Nevada

Case Study Water management in a water stressed area image

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Clean Drinking Water for Durba in the DRC

Access to clean drinking water is essential for social and economic development. The stomach bugs and diarrhoea caused by drinking dirty water prevent children going to school and adults from going to work or taking part in community activities.

Since construction began at our Kibali mine in the DRC, we have drilled more than 100 new boreholes and upgraded many more to provide ready access to clean water for the communities closest to Kibali’s operations. However, with a rapidly growing population and large impact zone, access to water remains a priority issue for Kibali communities, and particularly for residents of the cities of Durba and Watsa. In these growing cities water is either supplied by private vendors at a cost beyond the means of most residents, or a long walk to the river is necessary. In 2017, Kibali management entered into an agreement with the local Community Development Committee and in close consultation with local authorities, to invest in a water distribution project for Durba’s estimated +300,000 residents.

As illustrated, the new water distribution system pumps and purifies water from nearby hills to a network of 40 water fountains in the city.

Clean drinking water for Durba in the DRC

Waste management

Careful management of mine waste is essential to safeguard local communities and minimize environmental damage. This includes the management of large volumes of waste rock, which may contain metals and elements, either because the rock contained them naturally or because chemical reagents were introduced through the mining process.

After ore is mined, it must be processed to extract the target mineral (eg gold). Higher grade ores are often ground into small particles to increase recovery. Once the finely ground ore has been processed, the remaining material is commonly referred to as ‘tailings’. After milling and processing is complete, tailings are either incorporated into materials used to backfill pits or underground voids created by mining, or pumped in a slurry form into an engineered repository. Such a repository is called a TSF.

Responsible tailings and dam management

Management approach

We are committed to leading practice in all aspects of tailings and dam management. We manage a total of 55 TSFs: 13 of these (24%) are operating, while 42 (76%) are closed; as well as a riverine tailings disposal system at Porgera. All TSFs are carefully engineered for stability, closely monitored and frequently inspected.

Our Tailing and Heap Leach Management Standard puts safety at the centre of tailings management. The Standard governs how all TSFs and heap leaches are located, designed, constructed, operated and closed. It designates the key roles required, such as an Engineer of Record (EoR) and a Responsible Person for each TSF. The Responsible Person manages key documentation such as the compliance plan, risk assessment and manuals and ensures an emergency response plan is in place and communicated to all affected people. A review of our Standard is being undertaken in 2019 to ensure it is applicable to the full range of seismic and hydrological characteristics in the expanded Group.

For the construction of any new TSF or heap leach, our Tailing and Heap Leach Management Standard stipulates that the technical specifications will meet all national requirements and follow international good practice including World Bank Standards, Canadian Dam Association Safety guidelines and the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC) Guide to the Management of Tailings Facilities.

For existing and closed facilities, the Standard outlines six levels of safety oversight (six levels of surety) that must be undertaken, with full documentation at each stage:

  • Monitoring technology
    Our operating sites employ monitoring systems such as vibrating wire piezometers, inclinometers, drone surveys, satellite surveys and imagery, static prisms for movement detection, drainage monitoring and other technologies to monitor TSFs, abutments, natural slopes and water levels.
  • Routine inspection
    Conducted by suitably qualified and experienced site personnel, in compliance with Operation, Maintenance and Surveillance (OMS) Manual requirements. Intended to confirm that the TSF is operating within prescribed parameters.
  • Engineer of Record / Dam safety inspection
    Conducted by the EoR responsible for the design of the current TSF phase, or by a suitably qualified and experienced Geotechnical Engineer outside of Barrick with a comprehensive understanding of the current TSF phase. Intended to verify that the existing or anticipated TSF conditions follow design intent and that site-specific performance objectives are being met.
  • Dam safety review
    Conducted by a suitably qualified and experienced Geotechnical Engineer outside of Barrick who is neither the EoR nor a representative of the TSF operation or closure design consulting firm and who has a comprehensive understanding of the current TSF phase. Intended to provide a detailed, independent assessment of the safety and operational stewardship of the TSF.
  • Assurance audit
    Conducted by our internal Corporate Technical Specialists. Expected audit frequency of one to three years, based in part on compliance level and previous findings. Intended to confirm that the existing or anticipated TSF conditions and management procedures comply with Barrick’s corporate Tailings Management Standard.
  • Independent Tailings Review Committee
    Conducted by one or more qualified and internationally recognized experts outside of Barrick and not involved with the preparation of the TSF design. Intended to provide an expert, independent opinion as to whether or not the TSF design and current and/or anticipated performance demonstrate an acceptable level of care, from geotechnical, hydrotechnical and environmental perspectives and with reference to accepted international practice.

We conduct independent reviews of at least three TSFs each year, so that 100% of TSFs at operational sites are independently reviewed in a five-year cycle. In 2019, we plan to complete independent third party reviews of TSFs at the Goldstrike, Cortez, Pueblo Viejo and Hemlo operations and at the Giant Nickel, Nickel Plate and El Indio closure sites.

Stabilizing Mercury for Safe Disposal

Case Study Stabilizing Mercury for safe disposal

The management of mercury is strictly controlled by local and international laws. The Minamata Convention, signed in 2013, further limits the production, use and export of mercury. Barrick has been looking at alternative disposal methods for many years. One of the challenges is the instability of elemental mercury.

In 2017, we selected a company with proven mercury stabilization technology to take responsibility for shipping the mercury across the Atlantic for processing in Europe and then transporting it for final disposal.

After an extensive due diligence process and the completion of risk assessment and permitting processes, the new supplier received the first metal flasks in early 2019 from our Pierina and Lagunas Norte mines in Peru (88Mt Hg) and Veladero mine (430Mt Hg) in Argentina. The mercury was safely transported without any incidents at any stage of the process.

This mercury will be converted to cinnabar in Europe with independent auditors SGS verifying the process. This wet process does not produce air emissions and has benefits for worker safety and the environment over the alternative options. The non-hazardous cinnabar will be packed into steel drums for permanent storage in decommissioned parts of a salt mine where it can be safely stored.

Tackling Plastic Waste One Brick at a Time

The problems that plastic, and in particular single-use plastics, cause for waterways and the creatures that inhabit them received global attention in 2018. Plastic pollution is also a problem on our mines, where plastic bottles and plastic packaging make up a significant proportion of our general waste stream. Unfortunately, there are no plastic recycling facilities in sub-Saharan Africa, and much of the continent’s plastic waste is sent to landfill. In response, three of our mines in this region started work in 2018 to combat the issue – both by devising ways to reduce the plastic waste we produce and working to develop plastic recycling and repurposing programs.

For example, at our Loulo-Gounkoto mine in Mali, we have focused on how to recycle plastic into products that meet community needs. The aim is to not only reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfill but also to create a sustainable community development project and business.

During 2018, we worked with members of the community to smelt the plastic packaging from the lime used on site and combine it with sand to create paving stones and building bricks for use in construction. Resistance tests showed that our plastic and sand bricks weigh approximately 9.3kg and have a resistance of almost 198 Kilo Newton (KN). Remarkably, this makes them lighter yet significantly stronger than regular bricks. Full safety precautions are taken so that workers are not exposed to noxious fumes or put at risk from burns during the process.

The next phase of this project is to assess the economic and health risks of plastic bricks compared to cement bricks, before working to scale up the project and facilitate the development of a community enterprise.

At the same time, we will use the plastic bricks to build an example show home.

Case Study Tackling plastic waste one brick at a time

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Climate change

Climate change and the transition to a low carbon future bring physical, regulatory and reputational risks for us and for the mining industry in general. More severe weather events could affect the stability of infrastructure, and changes in climate-related regulation affect the cost of water and energy supplies. Climate change brings opportunities too, with significant cost advantages from reducing our energy usage or maximizing renewables.

Reducing the Carbon Intensity of Power in the Dominican Republic

Reducing the carbon intensity of power in the Dominican Republic

The Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic is our biggest single source of emissions, accounting for 43% of the consolidated Group’s total Scope 1 emissions. The mine is one of the largest in the world and is powered by an off-site heavy fuel oil power plant.

The power plant is being converted to run on natural gas by the end of 2019. This should assist the mine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a hundred thousand tonnes of CO2e per year, as well as cutting energy costs. Since the plant also serves the national grid, this change will also help to reduce the carbon intensity of the country as a whole.

Investing in Hydropower in the DRC

Our Kibali mine in the north-east of the DRC is located far beyond the reach of the limited national grid. But this tropical region does have numerous rivers and an eight-month annual rainy season, making hydropower an attractive energy source. We have built three ‘run of the river’ hydropower stations, which use the natural flow of the river rather than containing it behind a dam.

These provide up to 42MW of electricity in the rainy season and about 14MW during the dry season. Overall, approximately 65% of Kibali’s total annual energy needs are met by hydropower, with the remainder by diesel generators. As a result of the hydropower, the average cost of power at Kibali has fallen by 74%.

After the mine ceases to operate, the hydropower stations will be transferred to the Government and integrated into the national grid.

Case Study Investing in Hydropower in the DRC

Three-Year Payback Period Makes Solar Viable at Loulo

Our Loulo-Gounkoto complex is situated near the Senegalese border in the west of Mali. As the mine is too remote to be connected to the Malian electricity grid, energy is provided by heavy fuel oil and diesel-fired thermal generators.

The area receives plenty of sunlight and the falling costs of photovoltaic panels means a solar energy plant can now satisfy our investment criteria of 20% IRR. A project to build a 24MW solar power plant went to tender at the end of 2018, with the aim to have it running by 2020. The project is expected to cost $20 million, with a payback period of barely three years.

We expect the solar plant will meet approximately 40% of Loulo-Gounkoto’s energy needs during the day, and 12% of the site’s overall energy demand. The site’s energy bill will be cut by around 2 cents/kWh and 11.5ML of fuel will be saved over the Life of Mine.

These efforts will reduce our annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 11,000Mt of CO2e per annum and reduce our diesel bill by $6.7 million each year.

Case Study Three-year payback period makes solar viable at Loulo


Biodiversity, that is the rich variety of plant and animal life, is crucial for many of the natural services our mines and surrounding communities rely on, from purifying water to regulating the climate. Biodiversity is also a key concern for our employees and the wider local community, for whom the indigenous flora and fauna are an integral part of their identity. But mining has an undeniable impact on the natural environment that we are committed to managing and minimizing.

At a biodiversity strategy session held shortly after the merger, key biodiversity risks identified included reductions in water quality or quantity, impacts on protected species and areas and habitat fragmentation. Such risks could affect our social license to operate and reputation. Opportunities identified included supporting training for local people on habitat management such as alternative farming techniques, attracting wildlife back to our mine sites, providing an alternative livelihood to hunting protected species and intensive logging together with contributing to the pool of knowledge on the local ecology.

Partnerships for Protection

We work with environmental groups, local authorities and communities to deliver positive biodiversity impacts. Over the last six years the legacy Companies have invested over $4.3 million in biodiversity conservation projects in the US and Africa.

Conserving sage-grouse habitats in the US

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Barrick has been developing a program with the US Department of the Interior to offset the loss of sage-grouse habitat resulting from our operations. We pinpoint key areas for restoration using a process developed by The Nature Conservancy, an environmental NGO, under the terms of the Bank Enabling Agreement (BEA) signed in 2015. In accordance with this agreement, over the next 35 years, we will maintain habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife across more than 400,000 acres of land which we manage.

During 2018, Barrick restored over 4,000 acres of land to improve habitat for sage- grouse in Nevada. Restoration actions included tree thinning, seeding and planting, treating weeds, protecting meadows and installing fuel breaks. In total we spent $1.8 million in 2018 on conservation actions under the BEA.

This solution brings substantial benefits to support the conservation of this ‘near threatened’ bird, and regulatory assurances to our Company.

“Right now, we lose a lot more habitat in the Great Basin each year to unnatural wildfires and invasive weeds than we’re able to restore,” says Liz Munn, the Conservancy’s Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystems Program Director. “Dramatically increasing the scope and scale of restoration in the sagebrush sea is one of our top priorities, but it’s something we definitely can’t do alone. Seeing a landowner implement a project of this size gives me hope. The reality is this project is the first of many that will be needed across the landscape, and it will take a collaborative effort to make a lasting difference.”

Supporting the Garamba National Park in DRC

We are proud to continue Kibali’s legacy as the only major corporate funder of the Garamba National Park in the DRC. Garamba is one of Africa’s oldest national parks, designated in 1938, and in 1980 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Garamba is home to the country’s largest population of elephants and its only remaining Kordofan giraffe, a critically endangered species. With its mix of grassland savannah and dense dry forest, the park also has buffalo, hartebeest, hippos, leopards, chimpanzees and more than 340 species of birds.

Incursions by heavily armed illegal poachers in this war-torn region pose a constant threat to the park’s wildlife and local communities. Providing training for park rangers and tracking technology to enable rangers and researchers to monitor animal movements are key tools in combating poaching. Since 2014, we have provided more than $1 million in support of projects to protect wildlife in the park some of which include:

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  • $240,000 for elephant tracking collars and anti-poaching flights
  • $250,000 to fund a Kordofan giraffe monitoring team
  • $360,000 to support construction of bridges and infrastructure within the park to improve ranger access and emergency response rate and to support sustainable tourism

The results speak for themselves. Through the efforts of the rangers and researchers, elephant poaching is down by 98% since 2016 and no giraffe has been poached since 2017. There are now 55 Kordofan giraffes in the park, up from 38 in 2016.

In 2018, Kibali drilled water boreholes for the local community and provided logistics for helicopter ranger patrols. In 2019 we will be helping the park’s management team set up cocoa as a sustainable source of income for the local people, in addition to assisting with an expansion of the elephant collaring and monitoring program.

Helping safeguard natural world heritage

Niokolo Koba Park (PNKK) is a world heritage site located in the south east of Senegal near to our Massawa project. The park is home to a remarkable range of flora and fauna including an estimated:

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  • 70 species of mammal
  • More than 300 types of bird
  • 36 species of reptile
  • 20 species of amphibian
  • More than 1,500 important plant species
  • 78% of Senegal’s gallery forest

It is also home to lions, elephants, leopards, chimpanzees and African wild dogs, as well as the Derby Eland – the largest antelope in the world. However, under-investment and general degradation has meant that since 2007 the park has been listed as an endangered world heritage site.

Alongside the development of a Biodiversity Action Plan for our Massawa site, we have been investigating potential support for projects at PNKK. No aerial survey of the park had been conducted since 2006, inhibiting understanding of the distribution of species and the overall state of the park. During 2018 we worked with park authorities to commission an independent and integrated aerial and ground survey of the park, to count animal species and numbers and better understand the threats to the park. We provided $100,000 of funding, providing for an aerial survey of 4,306km, a camera survey with 77 traps, a ground vehicle survey of 1,737km and a ground foot survey involving 15 teams.

The survey found that a good diversity of wildlife remains at PNKK, particularly of large mammals, although no elephants were sighted and the wild dog population seems to be in decline. It also showed the park faces significant threats from poaching and illegal mining. Bushfires remains a serious problem, with 36 fires spotted by the aerial survey. Plotting human and animal population densities on a map reveals the stark impact of human activity.

These findings are helping various park stakeholders assess the effectiveness of the current conservation programs. The data will also be used by the IUCN to evaluate the progress of the park towards being removed from the endangered list and it will inform the Senegalese Government’s response to the IUCN’s recommendations. The report will also be integrated into the Massawa site’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

Headwaters of the Strickland and Kaijende Highlands conservation areas

As part of a public-private partnership in Papua New Guinea, we have been supporting work to recognize the Headwaters of the Strickland and the Kaijende Highlands as two conservation areas.

The Headwaters of the Strickland area spans 182,000 hectares of lower montane forest, while the Kaijende Highlands cover 144,000 hectares of montane forest and sub-alpine grassland. Biodiversity surveys sponsored by Barrick Niugini Limited (BNL) have identified more than 75 plant and animal species previously unknown to science. Both areas have been identified as being of global significance and as conservation priorities for Papua New Guinea.

Both areas are managed in accordance with the Papuan Forest Stewards Initiative, a conservation-based development program designed and implemented by American anthropologist Dr William H Thomas and the local landowners. It combines traditional environmental knowledge, cultural stewardship and partnership with local, national and international institutions.

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Air emissions

Mining can create high levels of dust in the air which can cause breathing issues and eye irritation. Mining can also produce other air pollutants including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and mercury, many of which are tightly regulated by our host countries. We are committed to robust air pollution management to ensure we maintain our relationships with local communities, keep our employees healthy and to satisfy our permit and license requirements.

Management approach

Air emissions

Dust is the main air pollutant at mining sites with levels and strategies to deal with dust varying between sites. We reduce dust by spraying water to suppress dust at roads, crushers and conveyor belt systems; applying natural or synthetic dust suppression products where suitable and enforcing speed limits to reduce dust picked up by vehicles, particularly on heavy use haul roads.

Other air emissions
Sulphur dioxide (SOx), nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate (PM10) emissions are produced in the combustion engines of our vehicles and on-site generators and from processing certain ores. Depending on the site and ambient air quality, we adopt a range of measures to reduce these emissions and comply with local air quality standards. These measures include low NOx burners, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for stationary sources and scrubbers.