Pursuing Transformational Innovation in Our Environmental Practices

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Pursuing Transformational Innovation in Our Environmental Practices

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What does “transformational innovation” mean? Check out Goldcorp's pioneering H2Zero initiative http://bit.ly/2uwDoPU

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Monday, August 14, 2017 - 9:05am

CAMPAIGN: Together, Creating Sustainable Value


Goldcorp’s recently published 2016 Sustainability Report reiterates our commitment to the protection of life, health and the environment for present and future generations. At every stage of the mining life cycle, we work to avoid, reduce or mitigate any negative environmental impacts. Lisa Wade, Vice President, Environment, discusses how we are harnessing innovation to manage tailings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, power and water use, and reflects on our environmental performance in 2016.

When you reflect on 2016, what are some of the year’s highlights and accomplishments in environmental stewardship at Goldcorp?

Our Towards Zero Water (H2Zero) initiative is the year’s highlight. It’s a long-term goal – we have internal targets looking ten years out – but firmly establishing the direction is a significant statement.

We are well positioned to begin moving Towards Zero Water. In recent years, through our Water Stewardship Strategy, we have already made tremendous progress. We’ve tightened up our data collection and metrics, we’ve refined our definitions and internal language around water use, and we’ve made sure we have the right studies and science in place to understand our potential impacts. All of this activity sets us up well for moving Towards Zero Water.

Since launching our H2Zero Initiative, we decided it would be critical to understand as much as we can about the true cost of water at our mine sites. Some mines pay for their water rights, but that’s far from the end of their costs. It takes infrastructure, energy and labour to extract water, to move it around a site, to store it, to treat it, and to discharge it. Additionally, the water infrastructure requires ongoing maintenance and upgrades, and often replacement at one or multiple points during the life of a mine. It’s not a simple analysis to figure out the cost of water. The more we learn, the more we realize we need to include – but getting as close as we can to identifying the true costs of water is essential if we are going to show both the return on investment of our H2Zero program, as well as its potential to add to our net asset value. We will complete the cost analysis at key operations by the end of 2017.

In addition to our aggressive H2Zero program, I also want to mention our success at the Marlin mine, where 100% of last year’s electrical energy came from renewable biomass. After research into power generation options that were the most cost-effective for the mine, the mine manager found a supplier of “green” power generated from the biomass waste from sugarcane farming. This source proved to be both economical and environmentally beneficial at the same time.

What were some of the year’s challenges from an environmental perspective?

It is no secret that tailings impoundments can give rise to environmental issues and stakeholder concern. As part of our regular monitoring program, we detected some changes to water quality in the Peñasquito tailings impoundment’s groundwater monitor wells. These wells are located within our property boundary and are part of the monitoring that we report to the regulatory agencies. An extensive characterization program of the issue was undertaken including the installation of additional monitoring wells and significant work was done conducting hydrogeological testing in the area. This work resulted in the development of a corrective action plan that includes the installation of a capture and pumpback system. The actual installation of this pumpback system commenced in 2016 and will continue during 2017 when the system also becomes operational. While the science and operation of seepage collection and pumpback systems are well understood and have been used in the mining industry successfully for some time, we are committed to drastically improving the way tailings impoundments behave in the future.

We have been a leader in the installation and operation of filtered tailings facilities that contain significantly less water than traditional tailings, and have the potential to drastically reduce environmental risk. This is a key opportunity as we advance our H2Zero goal. We have a successful history of implementing filtered tailings at the El Sauzal mine, the Marlin mine, and most recently at the Éléonore mine. However, this has not been easy or simple in most cases and there have been a lot of lessons learned along the way. The major challenge at this point with this technology is scaling it up to our large throughput mines while maintaining economic viability. We feel the possible return on solving this problem would be transformational for our industry and our environmental footprint. Success of innovation is never a guarantee, but we have seen promising signals as we advance in this area.

Another challenge was the delay in moving our wind farm project forward at Cerro Negro. We had hoped that the feasibility study would have been complete by now, but there have been a number of issues that have held things back. Competing priorities is a constant issue in all areas, but we continue to view this potential project as worthwhile, and therefore work on the feasibility study will continue in 2017.

What issues or trends will affect Goldcorp in the coming years when it comes to the management of environmental issues?

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mine waste and water management are major issues for our industry.

As part of the Pan‐Canadian framework, in 2016 the Canadian government outlined its proposed approach to carbon pricing in Canada, known as the Pan‐Canadian Pricing on Carbon Pollution. The approach sets a minimum price on carbon of $10 per tonne in 2018. The minimum price increases by $10 a year to reach $50 per tonne in 2022. In the province of Ontario, Canada, the government has announced a cap-and-trade program to reduce GHG emissions and help address climate change. As a company with three mines and a development project in that province, we are following these regulations as they are developed. We completely support efficient energy management, and are actively working to reduce GHG emissions at our mines through improved energy efficiency and reviewing where more renewables might make sense. Our Borden project will be the first fully electric-powered underground mine in Canada. Its GHG emissions will be a fraction of a standard mine’s.

As our H2Zero initiative matures, we hope to see that reducing water use also continues to improve our energy efficiency and GHG emissions.

Another issue throughout the mining industry is tailings and mine waste. In addition to being a key element in our H2Zero goal, we’re very excited that our EcoTails research will also allow for a better way to manage mine waste. The EcoTails project is completing the pre-feasibility research phase, with test work underway at Peñasquito and Éléonore. The stored EcoTails will be safer and will allow for faster and more economical land reclamation and closure, and benefit biodiversity.

What are some of Goldcorp’s environmental priorities for 2017?

The number one priority is advancing H2Zero. This is at least a ten-year endeavour and we are just starting out. This is a CEO-mandated goal that is recognized as somewhat audacious for our industry, but we have successfully built momentum internally, and company-wide acceptance of the challenge is strong. By the end of the year, we will have established the true value and cost of water at our mines, so it can be embedded in our operational cost calculations and applied in business cases. This is a key variable that we need to know to quantify the cost benefit of any new projects required to help us achieve H2Zero. All of our operating sites will also have planned and budgeted at least one H2Zero project for 2018, if not sooner. We will also finalize metrics and targets to measure our progress along the way.

Where do you see Goldcorp in five – and ten – years in the future?

In five years, I want us to be well along the H2Zero path, and in ten years I want us to be as close to Zero as technology allows – and I want that technology to be something much better than what we have today. I want us to be the company that had the vision “back then” that people talk about that everyone thought was impossible, but that somehow we managed to do much more than people thought possible. I want mining to look a lot different than it does right now, and I want Goldcorp to be a name everyone thinks about when they talk about how different mining is now than it used to be. Because of that, mining will still be around in ten years, which is my vision – that we are still here because we figured out how to do things better and create sustainable value for all of our stakeholders.

For further information on Goldcorp’s commitment to sustainability, visit the 2016 Sustainability Report

Keywords: Environment | Goldcorp | Goldcorp Inc | Water | sustainability

CAMPAIGN: Together, Creating Sustainable Value