As with any mining activity, New Gold’s operations generate process waste. Process waste includes barren rock (not containing economically viable minerals) in the form of tailings or waste rock (coarser broken rock), which must be stored in a geochemically and geotechnically stable manner. This is also true for the remnant heap leach piles that are left after metals have been extracted.
At New Gold, we are committed to excellence in the management of tailings, heap leach and waste rock storage facilities, and have adopted internationally recognized standards, including the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining Tailings Management Protocol. Our Tailings, Heap Leach and Waste Rock Facilities Management Policy commits us to identify, assess and control risks associated with these facilities.
At our operations, waste rock is used as backfill underground and that portion is not included in our figures. Mining of waste rock is minimized as part of our optimized mine plans. For underground operations, the amount of waste rock generated is expected to vary over time, as opportunities for using it as backfill underground are prioritized over trucking or hoisting to surface.
New Gold observes and fulfills the Tailings Management Protocol from Towards Sustainable Mining, the Mining Association of Canada’s commitment to responsible mining. We work hard to ensure that our employees and surrounding communities are satisfied that we design, operate, monitor and close our tailings storage structures in a way that prevents adverse environmental impacts.
The New Gold Independent Tailings Review Board (ITRB) was established to provide independent, third-party reviews of all technical aspects of the tailings storage facilities operated by New Gold. ITRBs are considered best practice in tailings management and was one of the main recommendations in the report by the expert panel that investigated 2014’s major tailings dam incident at the Mount Polley Mine (a mine unrelated to New Gold) in British Columbia.
ITRB meetings were carried out in 2016 to provide our facilities with periodic peer reviews by experts on all aspects of design, construction, operations, surveillance and management of tailings facilities. Coupled with our routine dam safety audits, routine internal audits and reviews, as well as the annual Towards Sustainable Mining Tailings Management Protocol verification and assessment, these meetings form an important part of our assurance program, providing comfort both internally and to our communities of interest that we design, maintain, operate and close our facilities in the most responsible manner.
In accordance with new regulatory requirements in British Columbia, in 2015 New Afton updated inundation studies and tested its emergency response plan modelled on extreme weather events and conditions. New Afton also performed geotechnical drilling beneath the current dam to ensure that the design of the current and future dam considers this data. This means that the tailings dam is structurally safe, meeting or exceeding the requirements of regulators, and also that there is an understanding of the flow of tailing material in the unlikely event of a failure. The modelling has led to additional earth works to mitigate flow leaving the site in such circumstance, as well as to influence crisis management and emergency response preparation. All information has been shared with nearby neighbours, local communities and Aboriginal groups.
Process Waste – Operations Only
|Waste rock (000s tonnes)1||61,664||46,447||42,819|
|Tailings (000s tonnes)||4,686||5,648||6,332|
Typically, recycled materials include used oils and lubricants, tires, scrap metal, plastics, aluminum, cardboard and batteries. Recycling of non-process waste is an essential part of good environmental management and is practised at all New Gold sites.
We aim to recycle the maximum amount achievable and available, with each site seeking to improve their recycling levels year-on-year through site-based management plans and awareness training. Recycling of oils and lubricants has remained consistent over the past three years, as this is not influenced to the same extent by stockpiling and batch recycling programs. 2015 saw a decrease in recycling of paper, plastics and metals, primarily due to scrap metal recycling at New Afton related to the demolition of an old mill and infrastructure in the 2012‒2013 period. Similarly, tire recycling has continued its downward trend as expected. This is due in part to recycling of stockpiled tires at the New Afton site in 2013.
We compost materials at the Cerro San Pedro Mine. We consistently increased composting at the site from half a tonne in 2012 to 6.5 tonnes of material in 2014. As we started to gradually close the operation this figure has declined to 2.8 tonnes in 2015, and 1.9 tonnes in 2016. This material has been used in the topsoil stockpiles or for the greenhouse, where we have a seedling nursery for reclamation.