We are committed to minimizing our environmental impact and working to preserve the natural areas surrounding our operations.
Critical to this is the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as ensuring safe working and living conditions for employees and local communities.
With an average life of mine of about above 20 years, we take a long-term approach to environmental management across our assets.
By continuously working to improve our environmental performance at every stage of the production cycle, we strive to consistently minimize its environmental impact.
Starting from the design engineering stage, we assess all potential environmental risks and plan our activities to minimize or eliminate these. This is regulated by our officially approved corporate “Standard for Environmental and Social Impact Assessments”. Environmental impact assessment materials are released to the public and include contact details for feedback.
As an example, EIA materials for our recent large-scale project at Natalka are posted at the website of the Tenkinsky municipality.
In the first half of 2020, AO Polyus Verninskoye (Bodaybo District, Irkutsk Region) presented its mill capacity expansion project for public hearings. The materials are available on the official website of the administration of the Municipality of Bodaybo.
During construction and field development, we focus on:
- preventing air and water pollution
- waste management and conserving biodiversity
- mine site rehabilitation
To manage these factors, we have developed and introduced a “Standard for the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, Preventing Environmental Pollution, and Tracking and Reporting Environmental KPIs”, which is applicable to all stages of the life cycle.
We extend our environmental standards to our contractors and vendors. This is regulated by our “Contractors’ HSE Cooperation and Coordination Standard”. Another officially approved “Cyanide management standard” has been introduced to ensure compliance with the International Cyanide Management Code. This corporate standard requires our cyanide suppliers to comply with the Code and prevents cyanide procurement from uncertified vendors.
Polyus has rolled out an integrated HSE and sustainable development management system. This includes an Environmental Management System which incorporates all our environmental protection initiatives.
All of our mining assets are certified in accordance with ISO 14001 requirements. Certification compliance audits are carried out on a regular basis.
On an annual basis, the sustainability reports reflect the quantified results of the environmental management system.
The improved environmental management system has led to a significant reduction in environmental impact charges in excess of the standard rate.
Amount of payment for negative impact on the environment, $ thousand
We recognize that climate change can have an influence on infrastructure stability and the effectiveness of policies geared towards environmental safety and the sustainability of water and energy resources. Therefore, one of our sustainable development priorities is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2015, we joined other ICMM members in support of the climate change statement issued prior to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21). We are also committed to the principles set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals; goal 12 is to “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,” and goal 13 is to “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
We are developing a widescale greenhouse gas emission control system and have put together a standard outlining our in-house requirements. We are considering options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout all the stages of our assets’ life cycles.
Along with other environmental issues, issues and risks related to climate change are overseen by the Chief Operating Officer and the Operations Committee of the Board of Directors of Polyus.
In addition to policies relating to the sustainable use of resources and improving energy efficiency, we are consistently reviewing alternative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including using renewable or low-carbon energy sources.
As a result of our initiatives, the share of energy produced from renewable sources in the total volume of energy production increases every year while the specific energy consumption decreases. Thus, electricity consumption per ton of ore processed decreased from 34.4 kWh in 2020 to 34.3 kWh in 2021.
Share of carbon-free electricity consumption at Polyus production assets, %
GHG emissions, Mt CO₂-e
Managing air pollution is vital to ensuring the health of our employees, the general public and the natural environment in the areas where we operate.
We are focused on minimizing our air pollutant emissions. Most importantly, we aim to cut down on our fossil fuel consumption and maximize the use of low-carbon and renewable energy sources across our operations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
In a bid to reduce air emissions, we take measures to ensure that the equipment used on-site complies with international quality standards and optimize the routes taken by motor vehicles. In addition, we are focused on preventing dust pollution and regularly carry out dust suppression initiatives.
We are committed to sustainable water resource stewardship.
Along with other environmental issues, water-related issues and risks are overseen by the Chief Operating Officer and the Operations Committee of the Board of Directors of Polyus.
Polyus is committed to responsible water management in keeping with the approach formulated in the ICMM Position Statement.
Our priority is to reduce the amount of water used per unit of output. To achieve this goal, we:
- control our water consumption
- implement water-efficient processes at our enterprises
- aim to increase the percentage of water that we reuse
Currently, approximately 90% of all process water at our operations is recirculated and used again.
New water is increasingly sourced from the quarry drainage systems and, to a lesser extent, is taken from groundwater sources and surface streams.
Water is purified before it is discharged into aboveground bodies of water: water treatment facilities are upgraded or new facilities constructed at all of our operations, as necessary.
Furthermore, we continuously monitor the quality of groundwater and streams aboveground at our production sites at accredited laboratories, including mobile labs. This is to ensure that any impact from our operations on the water quality does not exceed regulatory limits, and at the same time enables us to identify potential issues as they emerge, and take immediate, corrective action.
Waste generation is an unavoidable part of the production process. Mining wastes are primarily tailings, a mixture of rock and water generated during ore treatment. We aim to minimize the potential environmental impact of tailings.
Our sites comply fully with Russian legislation governing the safe operation of tailings storage facilities (TSFs). Another important guideline for Polyus is the ICMM Position Statement on Preventing Catastrophic Failure of Tailings Storage Facilities. We implement comprehensive risk assessments related to TSF operation. In addition, special attention is paid to the condition of dams, monitoring wells, other protective measures and related utility systems and networks.
We are always looking for opportunities to recycle and reuse in order to minimize waste. When disposing of waste, we either arrange environmentally safe decontamination and disposal or transfer it to specialized companies.
Polyus has recovered and neutralized over 25% of its waste (classes 1 to 4) in 2016 and over 33% of the total waste (classes 1 to 4) in 2017.
In 2020, we achieved 98.36% recycling for plastic and tires.
We employ special mining technology and techniques to reduce the footprint of its assets and restrict the scope of land stripping.
Reclaiming disturbed land is also an integral part of our activity and, to reflect this, we have developed a «Standard for Recultivation and Mine Closure». Planning for mine reclamation takes place during the early stages of each project.
As soon as a site is no longer required in the production process, we begin reclamation activity.
We run a range of programmes aimed at preserving biodiversity and conserving wildlife and plant habitats and ecosystems. Where some impact is inevitable, we strive to mitigate and offset this.
From the early stages of a project, we evaluate the surrounding wildlife in order to develop appropriate conservation plans. As part of biodiversity’ monitoring and assessment in Bodaibo region we are cooperating with Vitim state nature reserve.
Our conservation initiatives include:
- cooperating on relevant issues with regional institutions and government agencies on the biodiversity evaluation
- compensation programs for damage to aquatic wildlife (introducing valuable fish species into the local rivers)
- planting young trees
Polyus responds to the results of the environmental impact assessment to ensure preservation of territories where it is critical to maintain biodiversity (animal and bird migration paths, wintering and breeding grounds, etc.).
We do not develop mineral deposits in world heritage sites and nature reserves protected by the regional or federal government. We also actively prohibits poaching by our employees and contractors [in nature reserves and] in the areas adjacent to the Company’s operations.
- $235,000 spent on biodiversity conservation in 2020 and $307,000 in 2021.
- Forest crops of coniferous pine were planted, which will give rise to at least 1.3 million new young coniferous trees in the future.
- Polyus has signed contracts for reforestation work on a total area of 1,396 ha in the Krasnoyarsk Region, Irkutsk Region, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and Magadan Region in 2021 and we plan to expand the area we reforest further in future years.
- In 2020, over 380,000 fry of Siberian sturgeon, whitefish, peled, and grayling were released into rivers. Fish compensation measures in 2020 cost nearly $122 thousand.
Comprehensive biodiversity conservation programmes will be developed based on the updated guidelines and research findings.
A report is issued once every research project has been completed. For example, you can find the information on the biodiversity study programme at Verninskoye in our Blog.
We aim to lead our industry in Russia in adopting the best available technology principles (BAT)
BAT refers to those technologies that are most effective in protecting the environment and conserving resources, and which are economically viable, readily available, and have already been successfully adopted by at least one business in the industry.
With the BAT Bureau, we believe it is necessary to develop a separate technical reference guide on the best available technologies in gold mining. This proposal has been supported by the Union of Gold Producers “Technical Working Group 49” focused on developing a technical reference guide: Precious Metals Mining. The technical working group and Company experts have drawn on Polyus’ vast experience in order to present detailed commentary and recommendations as part of this document.
Since 2016, we have been working to ensure that our activities comply with the legislative requirements that apply to the transition to BAT, including registering relevant enterprises with the supervisory authorities. As part of this we are focused on preparing our operations for future integrated environmental permits.
Tailings storage facilities are used to store water and waste that come as by products from the mining process and therefore are an inevitable by-product of gold ore mining.
Global Tailings Standard Panel Discussion at the Natural Resources Forum, October 2020, with participation of Daria Grigoreva from Polyus:
Tailing materials consist of finely ground rock particles and reagent residues, necessary for extracting gold, and reclaimed process water, which is used for their hydraulic transportation.
Since contaminating the environment with these components could significantly impact a region’s ecology, we pay special attention to tailings safety. Polyus has a clean track-record of safety at its tailings dams, with no hazardous incidents related to their integrity and stability.
Polyus strives to minimize any tailings-related environmental risks. The Company’s tailings are stored in remote, inaccessible, or sparsely populated areas. No residential settlements or production facilities are located in potentially dangerous areas near tailings.
Polyus operates a tailings safety monitoring system at all of its facilities. This system encompasses internal industrial and environmental controls, as well as external controls from state supervision services and independent consulting organizations. In addition, at least once a year, representatives from the internal audit function and environmental specialists from the Polyus HSE&SD team conduct inspections of the exploitation safety of tailings.
In accordance with government regulations, we have established mandatory safety criteria for each tailings dump. These criteria have been approved by the respective government bodies.
Polyus also monitors international best practices in this field and has developed its own risk and control procedure matrices related to tailings management.
Up to date Polyus operates six
existing Tailings Storage Facilities:
|Name||Location||Current Volume in mln m3||Planned Storage Volume in m3 (in 5 years)|
|TSF on Latyshsky Stream||Kuranakh||93.94||105|
|Flotation TSF on Kadalikan Stream||Verninskoye||11.22||21.22|
|Hydrometallurgical TSF (area 2)||Verninskoye||0.19||0.27 (planned to be operated until June 2021)|
|TSF of the mills 1, 2, 3||Olimpiada||83.53||135|
|TSF of the mill 4||Blagodatnoye||39.5||82.10|
|Temporary TSF of the mill on Intrigan stream||Natalka||7.38||26.7|
Polyus also has six non-operational Tailings Storage Facilities.
Polyus fully supports the ICMM Position Statement on Tailings Governance as well as was very active in developing the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.
Polyus plans to integrate the Standard across all of its facilities. The Company has formed an internal working group running the implementation of the Standard throughout its business.
According to a preliminary assessment, none of Polyus’ facilities are classified as having ’Extreme’ or ’Very high’ potential consequences of failure, as defined by the Standard. Polyus is therefore committed to ensuring the conformance of all of our facilities with the Standard within five years, or by 5 August 2025. Polyus will publish the final assessment results should they differ from the preliminary ones.
Polyus will continue to make information on the progress of the Standard’s implementation available on its Sustainability website.