An integrated approach to environmental responsibilities
While the Venture manages the environmental risks and impacts of its operations through Glencore's groupwide environmental risk and performance management framework, it tailors its approach to environmental management to its specific operational and business management processes, while remaining consistent with the commitments and specifications of Xstrata’s groupwide sustainable development and risk management frameworks.
Management accountability is central to Xstrata’s integrated approach. Every year Glencore reviews its environmental risks and opportunities as part of its business strategy and planning process. It captures and integrates environmental risks into its site, divisional and commodity business unit and Group-level risk registers. This approach involves the whole management team, not just its environmental specialists, in the analysis and treatment of environmental risks and performance.
Glencore’s sustainable development assurance programme, which aligns with ISO 14001 and the International Council of Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Sustainable Development Principles, requires independent site audits in the Venture every three years. These audits, undertaken by specialists, include assessments of both environmental management systems and risks. Each site uses the findings from these audits when they prepare their annual sustainable development improvement plans. The Venture’s executive team tracks and reviews these plans. Site specific environmental compliance and system audits are used to identify opportunities to improve environmental management at the Venture’s sites.
The Venture’s employees are trained in risk management and environmental awareness.
The Venture is committed to identifying, understanding and minimising its impacts throughout the life of its operations and rehabilitating land once its operations have ceased. Glencore’s Sustainable Development Policy, which is applied in the Venture, outlines its commitment to identifying, understanding and mitigating the negative environmental impacts of its activities. The Venture focuses on identifying and using opportunities to help protect and improve the environment by, for example, creating protected areas for biodiversity-rich habitats on the land that it owns or leases.
It recognises that mining activities affect land, water and air and believes there is a great deal that it can do to mitigate these impacts and to ensure that they are not long term.
The Venture’s mining and metal processing operations generate air emissions that have the potential to affect communities living nearby and local ecosystems, if they are not carefully controlled and managed. One of its biggest concerns is particulate matter (dust which is sometimes contaminated with metals). The Venture reduces its emissions to air from its smelters to a point where they do not significantly affect air quality.
The Venture’s operations generate significant amounts of hazardous and non-hazardous waste which, unless properly disposed of, can be a threat to the environment. The costs of waste disposal can be high. The Venture does not transport, import, export or treat waste deemed hazardous under the Basel Convention Annex I, II, III and VIII.
All its operations are required to have waste management strategies and plans in place to reduce, reuse, recycle and properly dispose of the waste they generate. This minimises the amount of waste sent to landfill and cuts costs. Metallurgical mines and smelters produce distinct wastes that need to be dealt with in a specific manner. How the Venture disposes of waste also depends on the local opportunities to recycle or reuse waste. Accredited service providers dispose of the waste the Venture is unable to recycle in a responsible manner. Materials currently recycled include scrap metal, paper, wood and conveyor belts.
The largest volume of waste the Venture produces is mineral waste, which includes waste rock removed to expose ore. This waste can be placed in disused opencast or underground operations, reused during site rehabilitation or stockpiled. Tailings and slag from processing ore and concentrates are recycled or reused whenever possible.
The Venture recycles UG2 ore, a waste product of the platinum refining process, using it to make chromite pellets which are used in its ferrochrome smelters.
All the Venture’s operations are zero-effluent discharge operations. In terms of our licence conditions and requirements we may only discharge effluent in an emergency and in consultation with the relevant authorities.
Management of overburden, rock, tailings and sludge/residues
The Glencore Corporate Practice applied in the Venture’s operations set stringent expectations for the management of tailings and waste rock facilities.
Tailings from its operations are generally stored in specially designed dams during the life of the operation. The Venture prioritises the maintenance of the integrity of tailings dams, as even a small amount of leakage could negatively impact local water quality, and takes great care in their design and management. It has processes in place to ensure it continually checks the structural capacity of these dams and to monitor ground waste.
The Venture stores waste rock in dumps, which it rehabilitates by shaping rock piles and revegetating them to mimic the natural environment.
Water is a finite and precious natural resource essential to the sustainability of the communities in which the Venture works. It is also necessary for its mining and metallurgical processes.
Redefining water use
The Venture aims to use water as efficiently as possible and to avoid any negative impacts on water quality in the environments in which it works. Its water use includes water employed in its primary activities, which are mining and smelting, and in its non-primary activities such as dust control and garden maintenance. The Venture mainly sources the potable water it uses in its operations from a variety of water service providers, including local municipalities.
Previously, all water used in dust suppression and plant usage from dirty water onsite was considered recycled, as this water was captured onsite and reused in the activities onsite. The Venture has since revised how it defines recycled and dirty water from onsite dewatering activities. Essentially, it captures all rainwater that falls on “dirty areas” and stores it for use in onsite activities such as dust suppression.
Water usage measurement is an evolving area and the Venture continues to refine how it measures water usage and its collection processes, in order to meet its evolving management and reporting needs.
Water use and availability
The Venture’s operations work with the Department of Water Affairs, local communities, local authorities, the farming community and other industry users to ensure the sustainability of water resources and equitable access to water resources for all stakeholders.
The availability of water is a key consideration when the Venture plans the expansion or construction of an operation. It uses the results of the ESIAs it undertakes to guide its decision-making and to ensure it has the least possible impact on local water resources during the various phases of its projects.
All the Venture’s operations have water conservation plans. They have previously set water intensity targets and have measures in place to help them be as water efficient as possible. In addition its operations are identifying possible water reduction projects.
The only water sources sensitive to withdrawal in the Venture’s operations are the Dwars River and the licensed boreholes at the Lion ferrochrome plant