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 Code 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 2014

In 2014, our sites collectively consumed 17,538 tonnes of sodium cyanide, an increase from 11,460 tonnes in 2013. Both Cerro San Pedro and Peak Mines increased cyanide consumption in 2014, while a slight reduction occurred at the Mesquite Mine. Peak’s cyanide consumption increased about 12% mostly due to the changing nature of the ore processed. At Cerro San Pedro, an intensification in cyanide use resulted from operational requirements to increase the efficiency of silver recovery.

Sodium Cyanide Consumption (tonnes) 2013 2014
Mesquite 2,335 1,812
Peak 1,220 1,573
Cerro San Pedro 7,908 12,139
Total 11,463 17,538

In 2014, Cerro San Pedro achieved certification under the ICMC, joining the Mesquite Mine, which was recertified during the same period. The Peak Mines have made tremendous improvements in the way that cyanide is managed in terms of upgraded handling procedures, improved worker safety and reduced environmental risk; however, the site did not attain accreditation. Despite conforming to almost all of the Cyanide Code Standards of Practice, Peak was found non-compliant with the standard that deals with wildlife-tailing interaction. While historically the site can prove extremely low incidence of wildlife mortality and a robust procedure to further decrease risk to wildlife, the criteria that the ICMI has adopted meant that Peak could not be certified at this time, and as a consequence Peak temporarily withdrew from the certification program.

While we work hard to avoid wildlife exposure to cyanide present in our facilities, in 2014 mortality from cyanide exposure included a lizard and a turtle at Peak. These fatalities were not associated with the tailings storage facility, and occurred when the two animals crawled under a net intended to keep wildlife out of a Process Water Overflow Sump. It is not known if the wildlife died as a result of entrapment or had ingested cyanide, but these fatalities were conservatively reported as cyanide-related. Corrective actions have been taken to ensure animals are not able to access this facility.

Wildlife Mortalities from Cyanide Exposure

Wildlife 2013 2013 2014
Birds 1 2
Mammals 1 3
Reptiles 2
Total 2 5 2