Newmont’s engineering, construction, operating standards and technical guidance explicitly cover tailings management and establish requirements to ensure safe and stable facilities throughout their operating and post-mine closure life. Tailings management is also included in our Sustainability and External Stakeholders Policy.

Governance is required at all levels of the organization to support our overall approach. At all phases of the lifecycle, facilities are inspected at multiple levels – from the site, region, corporate and external parties.

Newmont has both operational (active and inactive) and closed TSFs in a variety of climatic and topographic settings. Annually, Newmont safely manages and disposes more than 100 million tonnes of tailings that are placed within engineered, surface containment facilities; used to backfill former mining pits; or placed as structural backfill paste in underground mines. An inventory of our facilities as well as information on our disclosures is provided below.

Newmont is committed to the implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM), which strives for zero harm to people and the environment, and requires companies (operators) to take responsibility by prioritizing safety of their TSFs through all phases of the mine lifecycle. We are aligned with the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) in our commitment to end catastrophic failure of TSFs and will continue to engage with peer companies, industry associations, governments and communities. Further information on our progress toward implementation is provided below.

What Tailings Are and How They Are Managed

Tailings are created as mined ore is processed sand through crushing, grinding and milling. Mined ore is moved to the milling circuit where the rock is reduced into sand and silt sized particles and then mixed with water and moved as slurry through the gold, silver and copper recovery process. The valuable minerals are separated from the rest of the milled rock particles either through physical or chemical recovery processes. After removal of the valuable minerals, the remaining milled rock slurry, now referred to as tailings, is pumped, flows by gravity, or is dewatered and transported by truck or conveyor to a surface engineered facility.

Tailings storage facility

Tailings Storage Facility - Akyem Mine TSF Cell 1 (background) and TSF Cell 2 (foreground), Ghana Africa

These engineered facilities are carefully designed, constructed and operated to safely contain the tailings and water, even during extreme climatic or seismic events. Depending on the chemical characteristics of the tailings and the surrounding environment, the engineered tailings facilities will generally be lined with a composite liner system consisting of a low permeability soil liner overlain by a geosynthetic liner such as high density polyethylene (HDPE) to prevent impacts to surface and groundwater systems.

Where tailings slurry is deposited in the facility, the water separates from the heavier sand and silt particles and collects to form a decant/reclaim pond on the surface. The tailings pond water is then recycled back into the milling process for reuse. The tailings are contained within the facility and once it reaches capacity, the facility is reclaimed with a designed cover system used to minimize erosion and infiltration, while maintaining containment of the materials, protecting the environment and achieving post-mining designated land use.

TSFs are designed and constructed to store both tailings and water. The dam construction methods include two main types: (1) water retention dams and (2) progressively raised embankments. Water retention dams are typically constructed to their full height prior to anything being stored upstream and raised embankments are progressively raised in a vertical manner over time to store additional material. Raised embankments are the most commonly used method for TSFs. The raised embankment design methods for TSFs are typically downstream, upstream or centerline. This designates the direction in which the embankment crest moves in relation to the starter dam (dyke). Modified centerline is a construction method combining both upstream and centerline.

Upstream

Construction of an upstream embankment begins with development of a starter dyke. The tailings are then discharged from the dam crest and form the foundation for future raises. Figure 1 shows an overview of the stages of construction.

tailings1
Figure 1: Upstream construction method

Downstream

Downstream methods commence with a starter dyke, which is often impervious with an internal drainage system, as shown on Figure 2. The tailings are first deposited behind the dyke and the embankment is raised in a downstream manner over time.

tailings2
Figure 2: Downstream construction method

Centerline

With the centerline method, the embankment is raised vertically, maintaining the dam centerline embankment as shown on Figure 3. This design method often also incorporates internal drainage, and requires construction of a free-draining shell. Modified centerline is a combination of upstream and centerline methods and is done to reduce the volume of construction material that is required to be placed within the embankment.

tailings3-1
Figure 3: Centerline construction method

Tailings can be discharged using subaqueous (below water) or subaerial techniques. Subaerial deposition is more common than subaqueous as it forms a sloping beach toward the reclaim/decant pond. Subaerial can be done from a single discharge point, or multiple discharge points rotated around the facility. Subaqueous deposition is normally completed when there is a potential for oxidation that could result in mobilized acid mine drainage. Subaqueous deposition can be completed in conventional TSFs, as well as offshore or within lakes or pits.

Tailings can be dewatered or modified in other ways prior to deposition. The current methods include:

  • Thickened tailings (which involves a process of dewatering to form a low solids content slurry);
  • Paste (which includes dewatering until the tailings do not segregate as they are deposited and have minimal excess water);
  • Dry stack (includes dewatering to a filtered wet or dry cake that is transported via trucks or conveyors); and
  • Co-disposal which includes mixing mine waste with dewatered tailings (other terminology includes co-mingling, co-placement or co-deposition whereby each has slightly different methods of mixing material).
back to top

Standards and Guidelines

Newmont’s Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and Heap Leach Facility (HLF) Environmental Management Standard and newly-introduced Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) Technical and Operations Standard sets the minimum requirements for the design, construction, operations and closure of Newmont’s TSFs to protect human health, wildlife, flora, groundwater and/or surface water; prevent uncontrolled release to the environment; and safeguard against unacceptable performance or catastrophic failure.

These Standards work in conjunction with other Standards and Guidelines, and incorporate the requirements outlined in the GISTM. The TSF is managed to be protective of the environment and adheres to the requirements of the International Cyanide Management Code, permit/license/regulatory requirements, and any other legal obligations or voluntary commitments. Further information about Newmont’s performance is provided in Newmont’s Annual Sustainability Report.

Newmont operations have Emergency Response Plans that define chain of command and communications and actions to take during emergencies. Additionally, Newmont operations have performed site-specific dam break inundation studies to support emergency response including communications and evacuation notification. In most jurisdictions, Newmont operations also do joint drills and exercises with local emergency response teams to prepare for emergencies

To improve understanding of the potential risks associated with tailings management critical controls are reviewed and reported on a monthly basis at each operation as part of Newmont’s Risk Management program.

Technical Guidelines

Newmont has developed a series of technical Guidelines to support implementation of the Standards for tailings management, which align with the GISTM. These include:

  • Breach Analysis, Inundation Mapping and Emergency Response Plan Guideline

  • Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) Critical Control Report (CCR) Guideline

  • Tailings Management Escalation & Communication Matrix Procedure

  • Tailings Management Governance Framework Guideline

  • Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) Risk Assessment Guideline

  • Water Management Standard and Guideline

  • Closure and Reclamation Standard and Guideline
back to top

Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM) Implementation

Newmont is committed to a five-year implementation schedule of the GISTM. This includes three years for priority facilities (August 5, 2023) and an additional two years for other facilities (August 5, 2025). Our priority facilities include those with Consequence Classifications of ‘Extreme’ or ‘Very High’ and our active operations. All TSFs that are not in a state of safe closure will be in conformance with the GISTM by August 5, 2025.

Newmont’s Corporate Tailings Management Team within Technical Services (TS) has been working with Sustainability and External Relations (S&ER) toward implementation of the GISTM. The progress of our compliance will be updated on Newmont.com. Work that was completed in 2020 or that is ongoing in 2021 is highlighted below:

  • Tailings Management Standards, Policies & Procedures: We enhanced our Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Policy, as approved by Board in October, to include an explicit commitment to implementing the GISTM and achieving the goal of zero harm to people and the environment.
    • To meet all 77 requirements of the GISTM, we revised our global Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and Heap Leach Facility (HLF) Environmental Management Standard and introduced a new Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) Technical and Operations Standard that addresses the many technical and governance aspects of tailings management. The new Standards took effect in September 2020.
    • In October 2020, we released a Tailings Management Escalation & Communication Matrix Procedure to the operations to support timely notification of triggers and events associated with our TSFs.
  • Governance Updates: Our Tailings Management Governance Framework Guideline, finalized in October 2020, aligns with the GISTM and details the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for tailings management. The framework uses a four line-of-defense model with the Corporate Tailings Management Team (CTMT) within Technical Services providing centralized support. Responsible Tailings Facility Engineers/Persons (RTFE/Ps) were named in November 2020 for our active operations and select legacy sites.
  • Education and Training: A series of informational sessions were held in June through September 2020 that included overviews for senior management, targeted sessions for specific focus areas (e.g., human resources, legal) and detailed mandatory sessions for personnel that have a key role in tailings management at our active operations and legacy sites on the requirements of the GISTM. Virtual workshops were held in November and December 2020 to train our Engineers of Record (EoRs) on the new Standards, Guidelines and expectations of their role, as well as with the newly appointed RTFE/Ps.
  • Systematic Third-Party Review: The GISTM requires ITRBs to be in-place for TSFs with consequence classifications of ‘Extreme’ or ‘Very High’, and senior independent technical review for all other TSFs. From 2018 to 2019, Newmont previously established ITRBs for Ahafo, Akyem, Boddington, Equity, Merian, Musselwhite, Peñasquito and the Yanacocha Sulphides project. In 2020, additional ITRBs were implemented for Porcupine, Yanacocha and the Ahafo North project. The ITRBs meet on a minimum annual basis.
2021 and Beyond

Tailings Management Standards, Policies & Procedures: In 2021, we will continue to develop additional Guidelines to support implementation of the GISTM, as well as improve our water impoundment governance.

Risk Assessments: Detailed risk assessments are a requirement of all TSFs (projects/active/inactive/closed) per the GISTM. In January 2021, we finalized a newly developed TSF Risk Assessment Guideline to align with the GISTM requirements. We plan to complete risk assessments for all active operations (and select legacy sites) in 2021, with the remainder of sites to be completed in 2022.

Systematic Third-Party Review: Additional ITRBs and senior independent review will be implemented in 2021, including Tanami, Cerro Negro, Éléonore and select legacy sites. Additionally, we are promoting a risk-based approach for completion of other third-party reviews, such as dam safety inspections (DSIs), dam safety reviews (DSRs), design reviews, and constructability reviews. These additional reviews are a requirement of the GISTM and are included in the new Standards and Guidelines.

Real-Time Monitoring Deployment: To enhance visibility of critical control performance and timely notification of trigger exceedances we plan to roll out an enterprise approach to real-time monitoring and data management in 2021.

back to top

Inventory and Disclosures

Tailings Inventory

The map below provides an overview of the tailings storage facilities located at our operating mines – the number of dams, the status (active/inactive/closed) and hazard classification.

Tailings-Inventory-map

Click here to view the Excel file of our full tailings inventory – updated November 2020

Church of England (COE) Disclosure Information
  • Church of England Pensions Board and Swedish Council on Ethics for the AP Public Pension Fund – Tailings Management Approach and Inventory Disclosure

Newmont developed a disclosure in response to the Church of England April 10, 2019 request for information concerning tailings dam management. This disclosure provides Newmont’s approach to tailings; communications and risk management; a description of updates to our approach following recent disasters; and an inventory of tailings dam facilities for our operating sites, joint ventures, subsidiaries, and legacy sites as of July 1, 2019.

Click Here to See Disclosure
  • Church of England Request for Newmont’s commitment to implementing the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM)

Newmont provided a response to a request on December 17, 2020, from the Church of England Pensions Board, Principles for Responsible Investment, and Swedish Council on Ethics for AP Public Pension Funds regarding Newmont’s commitment to implementing the GISTM.

Click Here to See Disclosure
back to top

Request More Information

back to top

PDF Download

Tailings Fact Sheet PDF Format (opens in new window)

The Tailings Fact sheet provides an overview of tailings as well as a summary of Newmont's approach to tailings management and governance.

back to top