As with all mining activity, New Gold’s operations generate mining waste. Across the mining industry as lower grade deposits become economical, more waste is now generated per unit of product produced. Mining waste includes barren rock (not containing economically viable minerals) in the form of tailings or waste rock (coarser broken rock), and remnant heap leach piles, which must be stored in a safe and stable manner. At New Gold, we are committed to managing our wastes in a manner consistent with industry best practices. We optimize our mine plans and often use waste rock as backfill at our underground operations. With regards to tailings, we store tailings on each mine site in purpose-built tailings storage facilities.
Description of Impacts
Requirements to manage impacts associated with waste rock will depend on what kinds of elements are naturally contained in the rock. As rock is mined and broken up, significantly greater surface area is exposed to air and water, which can speed up the release of naturally occurring elements in the rock. This can lead to impacts on water quality when water flows through the waste rock, depending on the elements in the waste rock and the speed they are released into the environment. New Gold monitors all water that leaves our sites to ensure that mine-impacted water doesn’t negatively impact surrounding waterways.
Tailings storage facilities are usually very well managed with little impact on the surrounding environment. However, as the industry has seen in the past few years, there are inherent risks associated with these facilities which can mean that unforeseen circumstances can lead to impacts to human safety and the environment. Because of this, responsible and proactive management of our tailings storage facilities is one of New Gold’s biggest imperatives.
New Gold is committed to managing mining waste in alignment with international best-practices. Our Tailings, Heap Leach and Waste Rock Facilities Management Policy codifies these best practices in New Gold and commits us to identify, assess and control risks.
New Gold observes and fulfills the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining Tailings Management Protocol. We work hard to earn and keep the trust of employees and surrounding communities that we design, operate, monitor, and eventually close, our tailings storage facilities in a way that prevents adverse environmental impacts and minimizes risks to local communities.
In 2016 New Gold established our own Independent Tailings Review Board (ITRB) to provide independent, expert reviews of all technical aspects of our tailings storage facilities. ITRBs are considered best-practice in tailings management. This additional layer of due diligence was added to our tailings management approach in response to industry recommendations coming out of the investigation into the Imperial Metals Mount Polley Mine tailings dam failure in 2014.
In 2016 and 2017, ITRB meetings were carried out to review all aspects of the design, construction, operations, surveillance (monitoring) and management of our tailings storage facilities at the Rainy River and New Afton Mines, and the Blackwater Project. These ITRB reviews complement our long-established tailings monitoring and management program, which includes regular dam safety audits and internal audits of procedures and protocols as well as the annual Towards Sustainable Mining Tailings Management Protocol verification and assessment.
|Waste rock (000s tonnes)2||46,447||42,819||38,274|
|Tailings (000s tonnes)||5,648||6,332||6,444|
Recycling of other wastes is an essential part of good environmental management and is done at all New Gold sites. Typically, recycled materials from our sites include used oils and lubricants, tires, scrap metal, plastics, aluminum, cardboard and batteries. We aim to recycle the maximum amount achievable and available, with each site seeking to improve recycling rates each year through site-based management plans and awareness training.
Recycling of oils, lubricants, and tires declined in 2017, largely because mining at Cerro San Pedro has ended, which means that use of haul trucks and associated materials was significantly reduced.
|Paper, plastic and metal recycled (tonnes)||896.9||537.8||576.5|
|Oil and lubricants recycled (litres)||667,972||533,279||421,557|
|Tires recycled (tonnes)||513.5||497.4||486.0|
We compost organic materials at the Cerro San Pedro Mine. This figure has declined in alignment with our reduced mining activities at the mine, and in 2017, we composted about one tonne of materials. This material has been used in the topsoil stockpiles or for the greenhouse, where we have a seedling nursery for reclamation.