Cyanide certification: how our gold mines get it right

At Eldorado we’re very proud of our management practices when it comes to cyanide.

Cyanide is very well known to us all. As every murder mystery has taught us, it’s a pretty toxic compound. But in gold mining, cyanide is often essential for separating gold from the surrounding ore. (Sorry, Agatha Christie.)

Gold mines use very dilute cyanide solutions – typically containing between 0.01 and 0.05% cyanide. But even at those weak concentrations it’s essential to consider the safety of workers and the environment. And because cyanide management is just as essential as the compound itself, we are committed to handling it safely and responsibly. Enter: the International Cyanide Management Code.

Cyanide management

Initiated in 2002, the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) is a voluntary program for gold mining companies. The Code provides guidance on managing cyanide with the aim of protecting human health and reducing environmental impacts.

Administered under The International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) and developed under the guidance of the United Nations Environmental Program and the International Council on Metals and the Environment, certification requires that a third-party auditor verify that a mine is in full compliance.

“It’s a rigorous code that really addresses all of the ways that cyanide has to be managed,” says Jon Brown, Senior Occupational Health, Safety and Environment Manager at Eldorado’s Tanjianshan mine in China. “Compliance with best practice is one of our top priorities at every mine site.”

Our team at Tanjianshan during the ICMC audit last June

Our team at Tanjianshan during the ICMC audit last June

Record-setting certification

In 2012, we applied for ICMC certification for all our mines where cyanide is used. Our flagship mine, Kişladag in Turkey, was successfully certified in 2013, followed by our Jinfeng mine, which received certification in early 2015. Just last month, our Tanjianshan mine received certification.

In fact, our Jinfeng and Tanjianshan operations are the first two gold mines in China to be certified.

“Being the first two gold mines in China to receive certification is huge for us,” says Jon. “The team at Tanjianshan worked hard to ensure we would be in full compliance, and we passed with flying colours.”

ICMC audit at our Jinfeng mine during November 2014

ICMC audit at our Jinfeng mine during November 2014

Principled production

To be certified under the code, mines have to be in full compliance across all nine of the code’s principles.

  1. Production. Our mines use suppliers who limit their workers’ and the environment’s exposure to cyanide.
  2. Transportation. Our cyanide transporters have solid emergency response plans and cyanide management practices.
  3. Handling and storage. All of our unloading, storing and mixing facilities comply with the code, with effective ventilation and measures to prevent cyanide from leaching.
  4. Operations. From cyanide management documents to contingency procedures, our daily operations minimize the use of cyanide and ensure its safe use.
  5. Decommissioning. When our operations end, we have stringent decommissioning plans in place that will protect human health and wildlife.
  6. Worker safety. From contractors to employees, we consider the exposure risk of anyone who works at one of our sites, and work to minimize or eliminate it.
  7. Emergency response. In the event of an emergency, our sites are prepared to protect human health and minimize environmental impacts.
  8. Training. Cyanide management begins with our employees and contractors, and their skills begin with their training.
  9. Dialogue. We’ve successfully maintained communications with the local populations, informing them about our plans and the safety of our facilities.
Our team member at Jinfeng talking to the local community about cyanide during the ICMC audit

Our team member at Jinfeng talking to the local community about cyanide during the ICMC audit

Working with cyanide is a reality of the gold mining industry, but working safely and responsibly with that cyanide is a goal that requires constant work. Fortunately, we’re ready.

“We’re proud to have our mines certified, and to have the distinction of being the first certified mines in China,” says Jon. “It’s proof of the great work our teams have been doing here and is an enormous accomplishment for Eldorado Gold.”

Visit our website to learn more about Eldorado’s commitment to Health and Safety Management.

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