Healthy and functioning ecosystems underpin the effective operation of our mines and the wellbeing of our host communities, so we carefully monitor and seek to minimise how gold mining processes, such as the removal of top soil or the building of infrastructure, impact local biodiversity.
Our policy is to take careful note of flora and fauna that exists on our sites before mine construction begins and then to follow an impact mitigation hierarchy in regards to biodiversity. Hence, as demonstrated in Figure 29 below, we avoid impacts wherever possible, minimise impacts through careful planning and assessment, restore and rehabilitate impacts whenever possible, and where complete restoration or rehabilitation is not possible put in place biodiversity offset programmes in line with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) guidelines. Our goal is for zero net biodiversity impacts by the time the mine gates close.
Our efforts to restore and minimise biodiversity are set out in extremely detailed biodiversity action plans (BAPs) at each site which, for example, require each mine site to have a nursery to grow indigenous plants and any tree removed from site must be approved by the appropriate environmental department. Implementation of these plans is reported quarterly to the board-level environmental and social committee. Hunting is strictly banned on our sites to allow animal populations to increase.
Strong partnerships with local authorities, host communities and NGOs are also a crucial element of our biodiversity policies. For example our mines lead to booming populations in local towns, placing additional strain on local rivers, soils and ecosystems and we work with local communities to empower them to monitor for issues and take restorative action when required.
PROTECTING ENDANGERED ANIMALS IN THE DRC AND MALI
During 2016 we continued our partnership with the Garamba National Park in the DRC. Garamba is one of Africa’s oldest
national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was once home to the now extinct Northern White Rhino. Our partnership with the park began in 2014. Since then we have provided more than $750 000 in support for a range of projects in the Garamba:
- In 2014 we provided $240 000 for a project to monitor and protect elephants from poaching via tracking collars and aerial flights.
- In 2015 we provided $250 000 to fund a team to monitor and protect the critically endangered Kordofan giraffe.
- In 2016 our goal was to help reintroduce Rhino back into the Garamba. However, security concerns arising from militia activity has delayed the project. Instead much of our support for the Garamba has been channelled to provide tracking collars for a further 50 elephants and the improvement of roads and access to the park – boosting options for ecotourism and emergency response rates.
During 2016 we also began a partnership with the Mali Elephant Project in the Gourma region of Mali to bolster our biodiversity offset efforts. Home to an endangered population of desert elephant only found in Namibia and Mali, the Gourma also has limited employment opportunities for young people and the area has been a recruiting ground for extremist factions. The Mali Elephant Project helps to protect Mali’s elephants, by working with local communities to convey the importance and long term financial value of this unique elephant population for local communities.
The project also supports funding for 670 community eco-guardians to detect poaching, boosting protection for the elephants and provides alternative employment for young people.
In 2017, we hope to finalise similar partnerships with the Comoe National Park in Côte d’Ivoire and Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal, and with conservation organisations such as Panthera.