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Rising to the challenge: our approach to fighting climate change. Interview with Daria Grigoreva, Head of Sustainable Development at Polyus

16 July 2020
Rising to the challenge: our approach to fighting climate change. Interview with Daria Grigoreva, Head of Sustainable Development at Polyus

Polyus recognises it has a responsibility to help lead the industry towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. The company invests heavily in reducing the impact of its operations on the natural environment and in addressing climate change. Daria Grigoreva, the company’s Head of Sustainability, talks us through key areas that Polyus is focused on, where the company believes it can create a meaningful impact.

How can businesses like Polyus respond to climate change?

Daria Grigoreva:

“Climate change is something that will affect us all. At Polyus, we recognise that it is the major businesses that can help drive a change in behaviour. Not only through reducing our own impact, but also through forging far-reaching partnerships that can influence a greater change.”

The mining industry is traditionally carbon-intensive, accounting for approximately 2 per cent of global energy-related GHG emissions (December 2018, ICMM), so there is a lot of room for improvement. This also means that if mining companies make collective improvements we can truly contribute to a lower-carbon future.

I should mention that comparatively, the total volume of carbon emissions for global gold production is significantly smaller than most other major mined products, including steel, aluminium and coal. However, there are still significant improvements that can be made in our industry, and many of the changes we are introducing to reduce emissions in our business are relevant for the mining sector as a whole.

Polyus has aligned its sustainability objectives with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which unite world leaders under a common sustainable development agenda — including tackling climate change. We were also the first company from Eastern Europe to join the International Council on Mining and Metals, and last year also joined the UN Global Compact. Both initiatives support the fight against climate change and require their members to join the cause.

Polyus engages closely with ICMM, with company representatives participating in various programmes and ICMM working groups, including the working group on climate change. This partnership is especially important for us and allows driving real change in the industry by developing new standards and policies, changing the approach to handling the problem, offering various solutions — all this in cooperation with our colleagues from other mining companies.

At Polyus, climate change is overseen at Board level by the Operations Committee. We are currently developing a corporate Climate strategy to consolidate all our efforts in this area, and ensure they are both unified and effective. This strategy will include a detailed risk-management system which will allow us to identify, assess and mitigate risks associated with climate change.

What are the climate issues Polyus is specifically focused on — where can your business have the greatest direct impact?

We recognise the importance of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency. As part of our wide-reaching programme, we are actively exploring technological and organizational opportunities to reduce our GHG emissions from every one of our mines. In 2018 we achieved a 22% reduction versus 2017, in 2019 — a 16% reduction versus 2018, and all that with ongoing production growth.

Our sustainability programmes will ensure we continue on this trajectory. Under our corporate Energy strategy, we continue work to improve our overall energy efficiency and have implemented a number of energy-saving initiatives, saving a total of 9.6 kWh per kilogram of gold produced in 2018 and 40 kWh in 2019. We are increasing the usage of renewable energy on our operations year-to-year.

What is the greatest climate risk to Polyus?

Climate change obviously brings up a number of risks for everyone — these include physical risks like heat waves, melting permafrost, droughts and water scarcity, wildfires, flooding, rising sea levels and others.

Apart from the general risks, we have identified a number of specific issues and challenges for our business, these could include transportation and operational disruptions, physical damage to assets and infrastructure, changes in demand for resources and socio-economic risks. We are currently working on a detailed production asset level climate risk management system to enable us to fully calculate the possible impact of climate change-related risks.

So what’s next for Polyus?

We are launching a programme that will analyse climate change scenarios and climate change risks at our business units. As a pilot project, in 2020 this will be performed at our business unit in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). We plan to use TCFD recommendations as a guidance in our work. The process will consist of several stages:

  1. Mapping climate risks
  2. Scenario analysis
  3. Quantitative (financial) risk assessment
  4. Development of a corporate Climate Strategy as well as non-financial reporting based on TCFD disclosure recommendations.

Our aim is to lead our industry towards a more sustainable future. The climate agenda is one of today’s key priorities. We will continue to improve the quality of our environmental disclosure and work with our peers to help develop new sustainability standards for the mining industry. Polyus is already successfully implementing climate action initiatives, but we know there is more that we and the industry can achieve.