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Sustainability initiatives at Polyus: Interview with Evgeniy Shor, Head of Environmental Stewardship

Sustainability initiatives at Polyus: Interview with Evgeniy Shor, Head of Environmental Stewardship

Polyus endeavors to always prioritize its commitment to sustainability within all of its activities. As such, the Company regularly initiates and implements environmental projects. Evgeniy Shor, Head of Environmental Stewardship at Polyus, spoke about the Company’s sustainability work in an interview with Business Rossii magazine.

The construction of the Razdolinskaya — Taiga power line has had a significant impact on Polyus’ energy supply. What makes this project interesting from an environmental perspective?

Power can either be supplied to a mine from the electricity grid or the mine can generate its own power. In Russia, in-house power generation usually means relying on gas, coal, diesel or fuel oil, all of which result in high levels of emissions.

The Razdolinskaya — Taiga power line enabled us to stop relying on in-house power generation, instead purchasing renewable electricity from Rushydro. This has reduced our coal consumption and decreased emissions of ash and greenhouse gases, further reducing our carbon footprint. In this regard, Polyus is following the global climate change trend.

Does the supply contract with Rushydro for clean electricity follow the same lines?

It does. We could have continued to purchase electricity generated by thermal power plants and HPPs on the market, but we decided to sign a supply contract for clean electricity only, via an integrated power grid. This was a conscious decision that Polyus made to reduce our climate impact.

A direct contract with an HPP is one option for reducing our greenhouse gases emissions. Our major assets have completely shifted away from coal to using hydropower.

After this, we went even further: this year Polyus has switched 100% of its power consumption to renewable sources. To further support the production of renewable energy and account for the remaining 10% of our energy requirements not yet directly met by renewables, we purchased green I-REC certificates. This was not a decision made based for economic benefit, but one that allows us to make an additional contribution to the green economy.

Are there any figures that you could provide on this?

Our preliminary estimates show that, after we start being supplied with electricity under bilateral contracts with Rushydro, total greenhouse gases emissions at Olimpiada and Blagodatnoye could drop by half, and by approximately one third across the Company.

What case studies of environmental projects can you give us in the regions where you operate?

All of our sites operate in strict compliance with Russian emissions rates regulations. In order to provide realistic targets for improving our current performance, our key environmental projects focus on gradual, small-scale operational changes.

For example, we are rebuilding stormwater treatment plants at some of our sites, with the intention to maximize its use in production. In addition, we continue to increase the proportion of pit water in our production processes. Rainwater, snow and groundwater collect in the pit, and would ordinarily be pumped away. However, we now have two options: we either treat it to discharge into natural water bodies, and keep withdrawing pure water from the source, or we treat it for use in our operations, where it becomes part of our closed loop cycle. By maximizing the use of pit and stormwater, we are able to substitute our natural water use, reducing the volume of natural water used annually.

We have an almost closed loop system, at 93%, but our goal is to increase this further. We will raise this by between 0.5-1% each year until we reach our target of 100%.

How is Polyus performing in environmental terms?

We are conscious that all mining operations impact on the environment, and Polyus is no exception. Like all production companies, we use natural resources, produce gas emissions and have waste landfills. It is important to comply in every way possible with the accepted best standards and environmental regulations.

Compliance with regulatory environmental requirements, which are constantly improving in Russia, are impossible without a continuous process of improvement, rolling out new equipment and implementing preventative measures. Continuous improvements help us to avoid unnecessary expenditure on large-scale projects to reduce negative environmental impacts. We carry out regular routine checks in accordance with the accepted standards and implement changes wherever possible and necessary.

How are you developing your environmental policies?

In certain areas, we have decided to set far stricter corporate requirements than required by governmental regulations. We have a waste management standard in place that outlines the responsibilities of all our departments, from the design team to operations and closures.

We also have a standard environmental impact assessment and a standard environmental risks assessment system in place. We are not obliged to carry out these risk assessments by statutory requirements, and our corporate procedures enable us to set our priorities and define our key areas of focus.

In addition, we implement best-in-class international standards, as a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), of which we are the only Russian member. In particular, last year the ICMM worked with the Global Tailings Review on the development of a Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. Tailings facilities can be dangerous for people and the environment. As an ICMM member, and a participant of the organization’s working group, Polyus was closely involved in drafting this standard and we have already begun implementing it at our operations.

What is the objective of the corporate climate strategy you are developing?

Russian laws do not require corporations to publish such documents, and strategies and policies are decided individually by each company, so we wanted to outline what sustainability progress would look like for Polyus. In addition, publishing our climate strategy and acknowledging our climate risks is a matter of key consideration for our investors, our communities and our employees. Therefore, whilst this is a corporate initiative, it is also dictated by the market and our stakeholders.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not the only focus of our climate strategy. Climate risks must consider not just the Company’s impact on the climate, but also how the changing climate will affect us. Climate change leads to changes in temperature, wildfires and extreme weather events, among other business risks. Therefore, we closely analyze climate change forecasts and weather phenomena to determine how they could impact the business, and what we need to do now to mitigate this.

What specific objectives will the climate strategy cover?

Our climate strategy will provide us with a comprehensive assessment of our climate risks. It will summarize the steps that we need to take in order to mitigate these risks in the future.

The strategy’s second major objective is aimed at managing our impact on the climate: our greenhouse gas emissions. We need to be aware of what steps, improvements and initiatives we need to take that will help us to reduce our emissions in the near future.

Another issue addressed by the strategy is the indirect emissions that result from power generation which we purchase and consume. Finally, the strategy looks at regulating our suppliers and contractors. It is crucial that we have procedures in place that encourage them to also reduce their own emissions.

We are currently engaged in a project aimed at preserving biodiversity. Air and water cannot be the only environmental considerations we measure when assessing the areas affected by our operations; we also monitor our impact on flora and fauna, types of fungus. This presents us with an opportunity to support local wildlife and contribute to environmental conservation. In particular, we work closely in cooperation with the Vitim nature reserve to support them with their goals.

Surce: Business Rossii, № 02 (192), Summer 2021