Cyanide Management

One of the most critical materials to our operations – and one often associated with communities’ concerns – is cyanide. Cyanide is a non-renewable chemical substance, commonly used in the gold mining industry, and three of our four operations (Cerro San Pedro, Mesquite and Peak Mines) use cyanide to extract gold and silver from the ore. At those operations, the responsible use and management of cyanide are of critical importance.

While cyanide has inherently toxic properties, its safe transport, handling, storage and use are well understood and manageable. All three New Gold operations that use cyanide in the gold-extraction process follow procedures that are guided by the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC). The ICMC is a voluntary initiative for the gold mining industry and is intended to complement an operation’s existing regulatory requirements. The ICMC provides an international benchmark for transporting, storing and using cyanide for the safety of personnel, surrounding communities and the environment.

In October 2010, New Gold was accepted by the International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) as a signatory to the ICMC.

Performance in 2015

In 2015, our sites collectively consumed 15,259 tonnes of sodium cyanide. We seek continuous improvement in order to find optimal application strength and reduce the use of cyanide. As a result, we were able to decrease the use of cyanide by 18% at Mesquite and 23% at Peak Mines. There was a 3% increase in the consumption of cyanide at our Cerro San Pedro site and the final total numbers were similar to 2014, with less than a 0.5% difference.

Sodium Cyanide Consumption (tonnes) 2013 2014 2015
Mesquite 2,335 1,812 1,481
Peak Mines 1,220 1,573 1,204
Cerro San Pedro 7,908 12,139 12,574
Total 11,463 15,224 15,259

In 2015, Cerro San Pedro achieved recertification under the ICMC, joining the Mesquite Mine, which was recertified during the same period. Although Peak Mines was temporarily withdrawn from the certification program in 2014, they are guided in their management practices by the ICMC as part of our New Gold Environmental Management Standards, and have robust procedures in place to lessen the risks to wildlife.

New Gold takes all cyanide-related incidents very seriously and works to improve practices by assessing and controlling identified risks and through investigation and corrective actions once an incident is recorded. During 2015, six cyanide-related wildlife deaths occurred. While none of the species were listed as threatened or subject to special protection status, each of these cases was reported internally and to regulatory agencies as required. Each case was investigated and our processes were reviewed and improved to reduce the risk to the environment in the future. We train our staff to look for and report conditions that may result in wildlife deaths, such as ponding on our heap leach pads or irregular fluctuations in cyanide concentration in process solutions. These steps ensure that we learn from incidents and make our processes safe for wildlife.

Wildlife Mortalities from Cyanide Exposure

Wildlife 2013 2014 2015
Birds 2 6
Mammals 3
Reptiles 2
Amphibians
Total 5 2 6