How does gold mining impact the environment?

The short answer is it depends on the mine. The long version? An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) spells it out.

We Canadians take our environment very seriously. Here in Vancouver, where we are headquartered, we live, work, and play in some of the most beautiful scenery. So protecting our natural world really is a no-brainer. This sentiment is shared across our global operations.

English Bay Vancouver

As an industry that extracts minerals from the earth,” says Doug Jones, Eldorado’s Senior VP of Operations, “we take our responsibility of preparing for and managing this process very seriously. We do all that we can to ensure that our activities have the least possible impact on our environment.”

Integral to achieving this is developing an EIA.

Here are 3 things you need to know about EIAs:

1. What is an Environmental Impact Assessment?

EIAs are comprehensive documents that must be completed and approved, internally and externally, before a mine can be developed. They include extensive baseline studies that evaluate the existing environmental, economic and social conditions of an area to identify potential impacts of proposed developments. EIAs also include the technical aspects of a project, such as process design as well as detailed closure and rehabilitation plans.

Doug notes that EIAs can take years to develop.

“Our EIA for our Halkidiki assets in Greece took more than five years to be prepared, reviewed, and approved by the Greek Government,” he points out. “These assessments can be huge – our Kisladag EIA document is over six volumes in length!”

Kisladag Environmental Impact Assessment

2. Why do EIAs matter?

Most importantly, EIAs help protect the environment. EIAs propose modified designs, identify mitigation measures and determine feasible alternatives to reduce, offset or eliminate potential impacts.

EIAs also include a consultation process with local communities, involving them in the overall planning and decision making for a project.

When we met with communities near our Efemcukuru site in Turkey, we promised to keep our development footprint as small as possible. That is why we installed the main rock crusher underground. Locating it below surface also helped to minimize noise pollution and dust.

“Community members had a voice in the development of the mine,” says Yaşar Dağlioğlu, General Manager of Efemcukuru. “Consulting with them was an important part of the EIA process.”

Crusher Efemcukuru

3. How do we know the project will stick to the plan?

Once an EIA is approved, a corresponding environmental permit is issued. The environmental permit will set environmental boundaries and limitations on the project. These typically include water usage, quality and discharge, air quality (dust and emissions), soil quality, noise and mining wastes.

The Environmental Ministry of a mine’s country government will periodically inspect the site and take samples. If the site is not in compliance, it can be fined or shut down. Independent government representatives visit our mine sites regularly to do their own environmental testing.

“Keeping our commitments made in the EIA is how we operate. It’s mining done right and there’s no other way,” says Doug.

Yasar echoes this sentiment: “Keeping our promises is just good business practice. I’m proud that we are good neighbours”.

To learn more, check out this video about our promises at Efemcukuru.

This is the one of many posts on this sustainability blog on gold mining and the environment. Subscribe above at the top right of this page, or follow us on Facebook.

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