Lifecycle of a Mine - newmont



About Our Process

From the discovery of buried minerals to reclaiming land after closure of a mine, our operations can sometimes span 30 years or even longer. This means we may conduct business in or near a community for decades, and even generations. Throughout that time, Newmont Goldcorp’s core values – safety, integrity, sustainability, responsibility and inclusion – give guidance to the actions of our employees and partners to ensure that we create value and improve lives through sustainable and responsible mining.

Before pursuing any new opportunity, we rigorously evaluate the geologic, biological, social, political, financial, infrastructure and cultural landscape in order to determine the viability and value of a project.

Our Global Supply Chain group plays a critical strategic and governance role throughout the life of a mine, ensuring that our network of local and global partners meet strict environmental, social, safety and ethical criteria to supply their goods and services in a manner that aligns with our vision and values.

We also proactively maintain our property, facilities and equipment at each stage of the lifecycle to ensure that our operations are safe, efficient and responsible. Properly managing and maintaining these mobile and fixed assets ensures that our business runs effectively and according to plan.

Follow along as we take a look at what happens throughout the life of a Newmont Goldcorp mine.






1.

Exploration

EXPLORING FOR GOLD IS A COMPLEX, SCIENTIFIC AND TIME-CONSUMING PROCESS.

With odds of only one in 3,000 discoveries leading to mine development, and only 10 percent of the world’s gold deposits containing enough gold to mine, exploration can be labor-intensive, time consuming and expensive. Exploration can last anywhere from a couple of years to sometimes even decades. It also marks the first contact between Newmont and the community, and these interactions are critical to shaping positive future relationships.

Prospecting

The first step is prospecting. For explorers working in the field, accessing land is essential to discovering deposits. Explorers must recognize formal and informal ownership to obtain necessary permissions to enter onto prospective land. Once land access is secured, community relationships must be maintained through continuous communication during periods of inactivity and across multiple work teams, contractors and consultants.

Newmont uses several prospecting methods to reduce the area of land to be explored:



Drilling

If the geological, geophysical and geochemical data collected indicate a possibility of a deposit in a target area, step two can begin: drilling.

Drilling helps us evaluate the type and grade of minerals in the ground. As crews drill, they mark the exact location and depth of each sample taken. Samples are then sent to an accredited lab, which identifies the concentration of elements, including gold, within them.



Mining the Ore Body

Assay information from the lab is combined with geologic, geochemical and geophysical data in a process known as geologic modeling of the ore body. Using information obtained from sampling, testing, mapping and observation, geologists use complex computer programs to create 3D models of what the underground mineral occurrence might look like. Geologic models are provided to resource model experts who statistically estimate the distribution of mainly gold and copper throughout the ore body shape.

Following several years of intensified drilling, the models are ultimately used by mine engineers to determine mining methods, optimum mine size and schedule, and equipment requirements that will maximize the safety and efficiency of production – all of which takes place in the next stage of the mine lifecycle: development and design.

2.

Development and Design

DETERMINING WHETHER TO EXECUTE A PROSPECTIVE INVESTMENT REQUIRES IN-DEPTH RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS.

Newmont crews work to determine whether the prospective site can be safely operated in an environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible manner. Expanded work activities take place during the design and development stage, with more people on the ground conducting studies on the common, technical and business elements required to move forward into construction. Common elements are defined by activities that require the participation and input of multiple departments and cross-functional coordination, including (but not limited to) project execution planning, capital cost estimation, organizational modeling and risk assessments.

Technical elements, such as asset management, geology and resource modeling, project engineering and metallurgical process planning, are evaluated in order to determine the mining and process requirements of a prospective site – all of which is done with full consideration of the international, national, regional and local laws and regulations, as well as Newmont’s own standards and voluntary commitments. A full review of business elements such as human resources, insurance, legal, security, and health and safety is also included in the work activity required to evaluate a project’s feasibility.

Typical project development can take up to 10 years from when the exploration group discovers the gold deposit, with the time expanding depending on economic conditions, legal requirements, technical difficulty and other factors.

DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN DETERMINING WHETHER TO EXECUTE A PROSPECTIVE REQUIRES IN-DEPTH RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS.

Newmont crews work to determine whether the prospective site can be safely operated in an environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible manner. Expanded work activities take place during the design and development stage, with more people on the ground conducting studies on the common, technical and business elements required to move forward into construction. Common elements are defined by activities that require the participation and input of multiple departments and cross-functional coordination, including (but not limited to) project execution planning, capital cost estimation, organizational modeling and risk assessments.

Technical elements, such as asset management, geology and resource modeling, project engineering and metallurgical process planning, are evaluated in order to determine the mining and process requirements of a prospective site – all of which is done with full consideration of the international, national, regional and local laws and regulations, as well as Newmont’s own standards and voluntary commitments. A full review of business elements such as human resources, insurance, legal, security, and health and safety is also included in the work activity required to evaluate a project’s feasibility.

Typical project development can take up to 10 years from when the exploration group discovers the gold deposit, with the time expanding depending on economic conditions, legal requirements, technical difficulty and other factors.

SUSTAINABILITY AND STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

While we are busy designing the mine, we must simultaneously partner with local stakeholders to design a sustainable path forward that takes into account a vision for the mine site after mining operations close. This means listening to their input and prioritizing development objectives together – while managing our current impacts at the same time.

Newmont engages during this phase in various ways, which can include public consultation activities driven by the social and environmental impact analysis process (social and environmental impact assessments). The decision to progress to mine construction does not sit solely with Newmont; the decision involves the local communities and government. Without their consent, the project cannot proceed. We value the feedback that stakeholders provide, and seek to design our projects in ways that create long-term mutual value.

NEWMONT’S PROJECT PIPELINE

In order for Newmont to create mutual value for our stakeholders, we must invest wisely, which is why we have a robust system in place to identify if, how and when we move opportunities through our project pipeline. Our Investment Council is chartered to make investment decisions across the organization based on independent Investment Value Assurance reviews at each stage in the pipeline:

  • EXPLORATION/CONCEPTUAL

    Defines the overall business case for the project or mine based on a high-level financial model using benchmark data and risk assessments.

  • Scoping

    Identifies the potential business options using refined benchmark data and updates the Investment Valuation Model to identify success criteria and confirm a high-level business case.

  • PRE-FEASIBILITY/FEASIBILITY

    Examines a range of options for the technical and economic viability of a mineral project, factoring in mine designs, production schedules, gold recoveries, plant design, labor and other operational expenses. Once the operational, financial, social and regulatory factors are examined and the risks and uncertainties are understood and accounted for and mitigation plans are in place, a single business plan is selected to move forward into the next stage.

  • DEFINITIVE FEASIBILITY

    Defines the scope, cost, design, production schedule and commercial terms to achieve the business case at sufficient detail for full funding.

  • EXECUTION

    An integrated set of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) processes lead to actual mine construction. First, and engineering contractor is hired to complete a thorough research-based engineering design. The next phase involves the procurement of all necessary mining equipment and materials including, preparing a request for proposals, attracting qualified contractors to bid for the project, and ensuring that the required materials and equipment are delivered in a timely and efficient manner.

3.

Construction

THE SCOPE AND COMPLEXITY OF MINE CONSTRUCTION CAN VARY CONSIDERABLY FROM PROJECT TO PROJECT.

Each site must continue to engage in collaborative and honest stakeholder engagement to ensure the expectations of all parties are aligned. With the economic certainty of an approved project, Newmont can start to implement training programs and partnerships with development non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies to kick-start economic empowerment in the community.

Once we have secured the necessary permits, capital investments and local stakeholder support, the construction phase can begin. Crucial to building the mine is ensuring that the best skilled personnel are available, materials are judiciously used, and time and other resources are optimally applied.

3.

Construction

MINE DEVELOPMENT

The first step is prospecting. For explorers working in the field, accessing land is essential to discovering deposits. Explorers must recognize formal and informal ownership to obtain necessary permissions to enter onto prospective land. Once land access is secured, community relationships must be maintained through continuous communication during periods of inactivity and across multiple work teams, contractors and consultants.

Newmont uses several prospecting methods to reduce the area of land to be explored:

  • transportation facilities, including roadways, bridges and ports
  • ore handling, processing and mill sands facilities
  • mine waste disposal facilities
  • water management and wastewater treatment plants
  • power infrastructure and on-site generating facilities
  • security, medical and emergency response facilities
  • fuel supply and storage
  • vehicle storage and maintenance facilities

These fixed assets support our operations and ensure the business runs effectively and efficiently.

4.

Production

WHILE THE PRODUCTION STAGE CAN BE LONG, TYPICALLY FROM 10 TO 30 YEARS OR BEYOND, IT IS ONLY A MOMENT IN THE MINE’S LIFECYCLE.

When operating a mine, we use stringent controls to prevent or manage any environmental impacts. Newmont Goldcorp’s environmental management systems are designed to ensure all environmental considerations – including management, monitoring, maintenance, training and action plans – are incorporated within an overall framework as an integral part of mining operations.

During the production phase, Newmont Goldcorp, governments, civil society and local stakeholders continue to work together to implement community development programs to catalyze long- term, sustainable socio-economic growth so that communities can thrive long after mining operations cease. We strive to reclaim land as we progress – called concurrent reclamation – and to incorporate stakeholder input in our closure plan.

The specialized machinery and heavy equipment that we use for production must be managed with discipline. These assets are maintained on a regular basis to ensure the safety, productivity and longevity of our operations.

Ore Processing

Haul trucks transport the ore from open pits or underground to processing operations. Some ore may be stockpiled for later processing. Rock that is not economical to process is stored in overburden rock storage areas.

Newmont Goldcorp uses two ore processing techniques to extract gold: mill processing and heap leaching. The grade and type of ore determine the processing method used. Additionally, the geochemical makeup of the ore, including its hardness, sulfur content, carbon content and other minerals found within it, impacts the cost and methods used to extract gold.

Heap leaching is used when the ore contains a lower grade of mineral content. The basic process is as follows:

  1. Low grade ore can be dumped directly on a leach pad (this method is called run of mine) or can be crushed and stacked on top of slightly sloped ground that has been lined with an impermeable plastic.
  2. A leaching solvent, commonly a weak cyanide solution, is then applied to the surface of the ore heap using drip irrigation.
  3. As the solvent percolates through the ore heap, the precious metals dissolve into the solution and travel to storage ponds at the base of the leach pad – a process that can take upwards of two months.
  4. Once collected, this gold-bearing solution is pumped to process facilities where the gold is extracted using a process known as carbon stripping or collection on carbon.
  5. Cyanide levels are readjusted in the leftover or barren solution so it can be recycled back into the leach cycle.

Mill processing is used when the ore contains a higher grade of mineral content. The basic process is as follows:

  1. We feed ore into a series of crushers and grinding mills to reduce the size of the ore particles and expose the mineral. Water is also added, which turns the ore into a slurry.
  2. We send this slurry to leaching tanks, where we add a weak cyanide solution to the slurry, which leaches gold and silver into the solution. This process recovers up to 93 percent of the gold and 70 percent of the silver from the ore. Carbon granules are then added to the solution. The gold attaches to the carbon and is pulled from the solution.
  3. We then “strip” the gold from the carbon by washing it with a caustic cyanide solution. The carbon is later recycled.
  4. Next, we pump the gold-bearing solution through electrowinning cells, in a process that uses an electric current to recover metals from the solution.
  5. After the ore has been processed and gold extracted, the leftover waste material, called tailings, contains small amounts of cyanide and other chemicals, so must be disposed of in an environmentally safe way. The tailings are stored in tailings dams, which are lined with impermeable layers. Although the cyanide levels in the dams are safe, steps are taken to keep wildlife away from the dams. Over time, the chemicals break down, the solids settle to the bottom and the water can be returned to the plant to be reused in processing.
  6. We then smelt the gold, melting it in a furnace at about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. From there, the liquid gold is poured into molds, creating doré bars. Doré bars are unrefined gold bullion bars containing anywhere from 60 to 95 percent gold.
  8. Finally, we send the bars to a refinery for further processing into pure gold.

5.

Closure

THE CLOSURE STAGE OF A NEWMONT GOLDCORP MINE CAN BE A TIME OF TRANSITION FOR BOTH THE COMPANY AND THE COMMUNITIES AROUND THE MINE.

Newmont Goldcorp is committed to ensuring long-term environmental stability and leaving a positive legacy for local communities. In part, this commitment means developing an integrated closure approach: taking into account community interests while managing technical environmental challenges and reclaiming mine-disturbed lands in a manner suitable for long-term beneficial use after our mines close.

Planning for closure begins during the earliest stages of project evaluation, well before construction starts at a new site. Reclamation activities commence during the production stage and continue post-operations until closure objectives can be achieved. Our goal is to minimize, to the extent possible, the disturbance of land in all stages of the mine lifecycle beginning with our exploration activities. Our goal is to reclaim all areas disturbed concurrently, when land is no longer needed for future mining operations, and to leverage facilities (e.g., roads, housing, etc.) for their long-term benefit to communities around the mine site.

LANDS OCCUPIED BY MINE FACILITIES ARE PROGRESSIVELY RECLAIMED DURING THE MINE’S LIFECYCLE.

Our Closure and Reclamation Technical Teams use a systematic approach to complete annual updates to closure and reclamation planning, cost estimates and concurrent reclamation opportunities. This approach provides a globally consistent reclamation and closure process at every stage of the mine lifecycle.

In developing and implementing reclamation plans, Newmont Goldcorp seeks to apply the latest thinking, technologies and approaches to effectively manage mining impacts and deliver reclamation and closure performance. All operations look to balance environmental solutions with post-mining beneficial land use.

LANDS OCCUPIED BY MINE FACILITIES ARE PROGRESSIVELY RECLAIMED DURING THE MINE’S LIFECYCLE.

Our reclamation and closure plans are designed to deliver:

  • Long-term, environmentally stable mining surfaces that meet mutually acceptable post-mining land use expectations.
  • Water management approaches that effectively meet water quality and quantity objectives to support beneficial post-closure water resource uses.

To restore the landscape for future uses such as ranching, recreation or wildlife habitat protection, we progressively rehabilitate areas of disturbed land in the mining area, which offers a number of advantages:

  • Improves the visual appearance of the disturbed areas
  • Establishes a cover to provide erosion control
  • Improves run-off water quality by minimizing the transportation of fine particles
  • Controls dust

6.

POST-CLOSURE

WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANAGING THE PROPERTY FOR A PERIOD OF TIME, THE LENGTH OF WHICH MAY WAY FROM FIVE TO TEN YEARS OR MORE.

During this stage, engagement activities with the local communities continue, and emphasize monitoring, land use and information about on-site activities. Communities are obviously still interested in site activities and often participate in reviewing technical issues and decision making. In some cases, a small number of people remain employed, depending on on-site activities, which often translates into local purchases of goods and services and payment of fees and property taxes.

With sound planning and a focus on sustainability, the mine and the community will have collaboratively set the foundation for life after the mine’s closure.

The purpose of this post-closure period is to ensure that all reclaimed mine lands, water management structures and revegetation are working as intended. Additionally, reclamation and long-term stabilization often occur incrementally, requiring a phased approach as well as ongoing performance monitoring. There are maintenance activities to be conducted to address erosion, and monitoring to ensure that post-closure performance criteria are being met and intended land uses are being achieved. Normally, there are financial surety instruments in place, which require that Newmont demonstrate successful closure in order to be released from financial liability. In many cases, long-term water management obligations require active water treatment and monitoring that could last for decades. In such cases, financial trusts are often established in cooperation with regulatory agencies to ensure adequate funding for personnel, supplies and equipment to fulfill these ongoing obligations.

WANT MORE?

As the mining industry continues to evolve, Newmont Goldcorp continues to create value and improve lives through sustainable and responsible mining.

Be sure to check back in on the Lifecycle of a Mine for ongoing updates. Visit these sites to learn more about the role that mining and metals can have on sustainable development:

ICMM International Council on Mining and Metals
World Gold Council
NMA The American Resource
Minerals Education Coalition
Nevada Mining Association