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Plant Tailings and Mine Waste //

Why It Matters

Mine waste — and the integrity of plant tailings storage facilities — are issues of global environmental concern. 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

At each mining site, we have waste management systems in place that specify how the 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

There are four types of non-mineral waste generated by our operations:

  • Hazardous waste, which includes used oils, batteries and filters.
  • Non-hazardous waste, which includes plastic, cardboard and solid urban waste.
  • Special management waste, which includes scrap, tires and toners.
  • Urban solid waste, which includes general garbage produced in offices and campsites.

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

Mineral waste

Our operations generate mineral waste in the form of waste rock storage piles and plant tailings from spent ore (no sludge is produced). All three of our mines have surface tailings storage facilities. 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, satellite imagery and water wells and drill holes to evaluate the compaction of the tailings.

Each year, we engage an external engineering company to audit our tailings storage facilities for safety measures and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Our Performance In 2017

  • There were no reportable spills involving hazardous waste at any of our operations in 2017.
  • We achieved an 18% reduction in hazardous waste, from 115,800 tonnes in 2016 to 94,800 tonnes last year. Reductions were achieved across all three sites through better collaboration and communication with contractors. At our El Cubo site, we identified a supplier to purchase our oil waste, enabling us to sell it directly for energy generation.
  • In Bolañitos, we achieved a 22% reduction in solid urban waste because we undertook an intense effort to separate and recycle wood and other materials where possible, which contributed to lower waste volumes.
  • Our tailings totaled 1,265,843 tonnes, similar to the previous year.
  • Waste rock used inside the mines 873,843 tonnes
    Waste rock taken outside the mines 274,626 tonnes
    Total 1,148,472 tonnes
  • We continued to manage waste rock, the natural rock and soil above and around our mines removed for development purposes, to minimize environmental impacts. Our sites re-deploy this material underground to fill the voids inside the mines created by extracting the ore bodies.
  • In 2017, our Bolañitos operation used all (100%) and El Cubo used most (87%) of its waste rock in this way. In Guanaceví, all (100%) of the waste rock was transported outside the mine in 2017. This is due to unavailable space inside the mine. 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.

2018 Priorities

  • Zero spills.