The overarching objective of Lundin Gold’s Environmental Stewardship program is to implement industry best practices for water management, waste and tailings management, and emissions reductions while protecting biodiversity.
We understand the risks posed by mining activities in sensitive environmental areas. As such, effective environmental management is integral to the success of Fruta del Norte, from day to-day activities on-site, to corporate strategic planning. Lundin Gold recognizes that our operations have potential environmental impacts. Such impacts are avoided, minimized and mitigated by the implementation of our Environmental Management Plans, including revegetation and the use of biodiversity offsets. In line with the precautionary approach to risk management, we conduct environmental and social impact assessments, engage with our stakeholders, undertake environmental monitoring, and apply continuous improvement and adaptive management practices to our activities.
We comply with local environmental legislation and with international standards in cases where international standards exceed local regulations. By going beyond legal and regulatory requirements and consistently working with environmental and community stakeholders to understand and address their expectations and concerns, we reduce our potential impacts and act as responsible stewards of the environment.
Lunding Gold is commintted to perserving local ecosystems and protecting biodiversity in its area of influence through careful design, stakeholder engagement, monitoring, mitigation plans and strategic partnerships.
The La Zarza concession, which hosts the Fruta del Norte deposit, is located in the Cordillera del Condor mountain range. The El Zarza Wildlife Refuge and the El Condor Mountain Range Protected Forest are important conservation areas, especially for birds and amphibians, are near the Fruta del Norte site.
The Environmental Impact Assessment for Fruta del Norte, approved in 2016, found that there would be no significant long-term biodiversity impacts due to the mine operation. However, we recognize that habitat fragmentation and a change in the natural landscape of the area can result in important impacts. We ensure that our plan for progressive restoration and mine closure employs processes of revegetation and ecological restoration to help recover any fragmented habitats and promote the return of native species to the area.
Given the importance of biodiversity protection in the area around Fruta del Norte, Lundin Gold has multiple mechanisms in place to monitor, manage, protect, and conserve biodiversity in our direct area of influence and beyond. For example, our Biodiversity Monitoring and Management Plan applies a mitigation hierarchy throughout Fruta del Norte’s area of influence. During production, our focus is on rehabilitation and restoration through progressive actions. Furthermore, as part of the biological baseline studies and subsequent flora and fauna rescue and monitoring programs, Lundin Gold documents species categorized as endangered, vulnerable, near threatened or of least concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Ecuador’s National Red List, while also conducting semi-annual monitoring of flora and fauna using external experts associated with the Catholic University of Ecuador, the Private Technical University of Loja, and the National Polytechnical School. For more information, visit Lundin Gold’s Sustainability Report.
Fruta del Norte is located near abundant water resources and receives high precipitation levels year-round. The operation’s water management model is designed with four primary objectives:
- Prevent and/or minimize potential impacts to water sources.
- Minimize freshwater intake by using contact water to the maximum extent possible.
- Maximize the recirculation of contact water within the operation.
- Treat all contact water prior to its discharge into the environment.
All water on site that has been in contact with areas of mineral-bearing and excavated rock is first treated in a system that reduces the total suspended solids and then pumped to the Main Water Treatment Plant (MWTP) for secondary treatment, prior to discharge.
In accordance with the Environmental Management Plan, the recycling of water is maximized at Fruta del Norte. Water collected from the Tailings Storage Facility is pumped to the process plant and serves as a major source of recycled water for various locations throughout the operation including the mine, cement plant, process plant, and paste plant, with any excess water pumped to the MWTP for treatment before being discharged. There are diversion channels located throughout the site which separate non-contact water (i.e., stormwater) from the contact water so that it can be safely discharged to the environment.
Although we have permits in place to withdraw fresh water from surface sources for both domestic and industrial use at the site, we have been able to greatly reduce our freshwater withdrawal by effectively collecting and utilizing treated contact water.
As part of our operations, we manage significant volumes of water and ensure that effluents meet prescribed quality standards.
All waste rock from mining operations at Fruta del Norte is brought to surface and stored in an area designated for waste rock storage.
All other waste generated is organized according to defined categories: non-hazardous, hazardous and special waste. The disposal and treatment of all the special and hazardous waste generated at Fruta del Norte is the responsibility of licensed and certified environmental waste managers.
Our objective is to minimize all forms of waste generated at Fruta del Norte, to incorporate a circular economy approach where possible, and to extend the life cycle of the products that we use. For example, we purchase consumables such as cement, chemical additives and printing supplies in bulk containers to reduce packaging waste, and then return the empty containers back to the suppliers for reuse.
In addition, the Company has implemented recycling programs at all of its facilities to recycle wastes such as plastics, paper and wood wastes.
Cyanide is commonly employed in the extraction of gold. The Cyanide Management Plan for Fruta del Norte is consistent with the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMI). We procure cyanide in safe and re-usable ISO tanks, which reduce handling, minimize packaging, and are internationally recognized as the safest means to transport cyanide. Both the Company’s supplier and transporter are certified under the ICMI.
We have also implemented the United Nations Environment Program’s Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL) process through engagement with 16 communities in Fruta del Norte’s area of influence and with local authorities. While this initiative addresses industrial risk broadly, we focused our initial use of APELL on cyanide management. The overarching objectives of APELL include developing coordinated emergency response plans with relevant government agencies and local communities.
We employ progressive closure and restoration practices to restore and revegetate disturbed areas throughout the life of our operations. Restoration activities commenced with the start of construction and mining activities at Fruta del Norte and continue today.