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Plant Tailings and Mine Waste //

Why It Matters

The integrity of mine waste rock and plant tailings storage facilities are issues of heightened global environmental concern, following recent tailings dam failures in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Canada. Surface tailings can represent one of the most significant environmental risks of mining operations, leading to potential water and soil pollution if not properly managed. As a result of tailings issues worldwide, the Mexican environmental regulatory authority, PROFEPA, has increased its environmental monitoring, site visits and rigorous reviews.

Management Approach

Waste Management System

We have waste management systems at each site that specify how different types of waste produced by our activities will be handled. These systems are evaluated on an ongoing basis with the objectives to increase recycling rates where possible and reduce both waste to landfill and volumes of waste stockpiled over time. No waste of any kind is shipped internationally; everything is managed onsite or locally. Our efforts include employee and contractor education and awareness campaigns around waste minimization and recycling, as well as safe handling of hazardous waste.

Non-Mineral Waste

Our operations produce four types of non-mineral waste:

  • Hazardous waste: includes used oils, batteries and filters
  • Non-hazardous waste: includes plastic, cardboard and solid urban waste (which includes the general garbage produced in offices and campsites)
  • Special management waste: includes scrap, tires and toner cartridges

Over the past several years, we have focused on recycling as much as possible to reduce the total waste generated.

Mineral Waste

Our operations also generate two types of mineral waste:

  • Waste rock piles: the natural rock and soil above and around our mines removed for development purposes. We have monitoring controls around the waste rock and soil piles to ensure proper management of the land, to mitigate any vegetation impact and to ensure there is no acidic drainage into the local waters. Such waste rock piles are considered non-toxic and can be used in part for the reclamation at each mine.
  • Plant tailings facilities from processed ore: All operational mines have surface tailings storage facilities for the finely ground rock that remains after the ore minerals are removed. Responsible management of tailings is a key priority for Endeavour. In keeping with industry best practice, we have a stringent Tailings Management Facility Protocol. We continuously monitor and evaluate the stability and conditions of our current and out-of-use tailings storage facilities, using aerial mapping and satellite imagery of water wells and drill holes to evaluate the compaction of material in the tailings facilities. Each year, we engage an external engineering company to guide us and audit our tailings storage facilities for safety measures including structural integrity and to identify any opportunities for improvement.

2018 Performance

  • Experienced no reportable spills involving hazardous waste at any of our operations.
  • Achieved a 12% reduction in hazardous waste intensity (tonnes of hazardous waste/tonnes of mineral processed) from 0.133 in 2017 to 0.117 in 2018. The decrease was attributable to efforts in El Cubo and Guanaceví to improve the management of waste, including the waste of contractors. There was a 27% increase in waste at Bolañitos due to longer trucks hauls from the locations being mined.
  • Added a similar amount of tailings: 1,287,306 tonnes, compared to 1,265,843 tonnes in 2017. The slight 1.6% year-over-year increase was due to the start up of the El Compas mine, which generated tailings of 18,848 tonnes. Excluding El Compas, our tailings volume was similar to the previous year.
  • Updated the environmental closure plans for our El Cubo property, including its six current and historic tailings ponds. The plans are being updated in collaboration with an environmental consulting firm.
  • Realized considerable improvement in urban solid waste management, with an overall 65% reduction of waste generated. This is due to the efforts put in place at Bolañitos and El Cubo to separate, divert and recycle waste. A decrease in staff and production at El Cubo also lowered waste generation. There was, however, a 33% increase in urban solid waste in Guanaceví due to an increase in the number of employees and contractors working on-site.
  • Generated 716,261 tonnes of waste rock, compared to 1,148, 472 tonnes in 2017. The drop reflects the slowdown taking place at our El Cubo operation as we decreased development. We experienced an increase at Guanaceví because of new development in the Milache and Santa Cruz Sur ore bodies. Bolañitos is the only site where all waste rock is returned to the mine to fill the voids created by extracting the ore bodies. At El Cubo, Guanaceví and El Compas, approximately 41% of waste rock was used as fill inside the mine and 59% was transported outside due to unavailable space inside the mine.

2019 Priorities

  • Zero spills
  • Reduce the amount of hazardous waste per tonne processed by 10%
  • Follow up on the action items identified in the audit for Bolañitos (tailings capacity and hazardous waste management)

Case Studies