Environment and Safety
Mining and milling operations at Kumtor conform to the highest standards of environmental management and occupational health and safety. Protection of Centerra's employees, communities and the physical environments in which we conduct our business are of utmost importance to the company.
Kumtor has developed a comprehensive Environmental Management System to address the effects of its operations on the environment and to monitor compliance with the various permits issued by the Kyrgyz authorities. The system provides scheduled monitoring, engineering controls and reporting on the following areas::
- Effluent treatment plant
- Tailings management facility
- Mill site and mine waste dumps runoff effluents
- Acid generation potential testing and recommendations
- Dust control
- Spill incidents on site and off site
- Hazardous materials handling
- Environment impact monitoring
- Planning for site decommissioning and rehabilitation
- Potable water treatment system
- Sewage operation
- Landfill operation and inventory
The tailings management facility consists of twin tailings lines, a tailings dam, an effluent treatment plant and two diversion ditches around the area to prevent runoff and natural watercourses from entering the tailings basin. The tailings pipelines are about six kilometres in length. The tailings dam was designed and constructed to address the permafrost conditions at the mine site. The dam is about two kilometres long and up to 25 metres high. It is constructed from alluvial material along with a synthetic liner 100 metres on the upstream slopes. During construction the alluvial material was compacted to provide stability for the dam.
As of January 2005, the tailings dam held 32.6 million cubic metres of tailings and 1.4 million cubic metres of untreated process water. During summer operations, some five million cubic metres of effluent are treated and subsequently returned to the environment.
Kumtor conducts at least six mock exercises annually to test different aspects of the emergency response plan including response time, effective communications and the skills of its emergency response team.
As part of its obligations to institutions that financed the Kumtor project, Kumtor Gold Company (KGC) implemented an Environmental Management Action Plan (EMAP) in 1995. The EMAP outlines KGC's environmental and safety commitments, including the regulations applicable to the Kumtor project. The EMAP was updated in 1999 and again in 2002 to reflect the maturing operations. Kumtor continues to be in compliance with the most stringent environmental, health and safety standards, including World Bank Environmental Guidelines, as well as all stipulations in Kyrgyz government permits.
The closure process adopted at Kumtor is a phased approach that allows for the development of a CCP; a testing and monitoring period of several years to evaluate the most promising options advanced in the CCP; and finally the development of a Final Closure Plan (FCP) closer to the end of mine life that considers the results of the testing and monitoring as well as any changes to the environmental, regulatory and social environment that may have occurred over the life of the mine. Therefore, closure planning at Kumtor has been an active and continuous process that will be constantly evolving.
Based on the CCP, a Reclamation Trust Fund was established in 1998 to cover the estimated $20.3 million in future costs of reclamation at the Kumtor gold mine, net of estimated salvage values of $14.9 million. This restricted cash is funded on the "units of production" method over the life of the mine.
As per a written protocol in 2002, the Final Closure Plan (FCP) will be submitted for local state expertise two years before the end of the life of mine. The plan will be developed in accordance with generally accepted environmental practices and applicable regulatory requirements, including World Bank guidelines and Kyrgyz regulations. It will covers all aspects of the mining project including the open pit, mill complex, tailings basin, stockpiles and other surface facilities.
Centerra is committed to operating the Kumtor mine in a healthy and safe manner for all employees, with standards equal to or exceeding local and world requirements.
Safety elements have been incorporated into the design and operational procedures of the mine. The open-pit operation is carried out under safe blasting procedures. Slopes are designed with a 1.2 failure factor and stability is constantly monitored for safety as well as for optimum design. Pit design has incorporated rock fall catchment berms. The haul road is constructed 25 metres wide to allow two haul trucks to pass safely. The road is equipped with proper safety berms on the steep side and drainage ditches. Waste is stockpiled over ice, and waste pile height is restricted to 90 metres to avoid slope instability. Dumping berms and procedures are in place to avoid incidents with equipment. A monitoring program is in place to ensure that waste pile face deformations due to shifting ground or weather conditions are properly addressed. Pit operators are trained in the safe handling of heavy equipment.
Process and effluent treatment facilities were designed to address issues of dust control, noise, hazardous chemicals, moving pieces of stationary equipment as well as potential electrical and fire hazards.
The camp complex, providing accommodation, kitchen, dining and recreation facilities, is equipped with smoke detectors, a sprinkler system and hand-held fire extinguishers. The transportation of materials and personnel, both on- and off-site, is undertaken under specific accident prevention and safety procedures that include speed limitations and control signs as required. Transport vehicle units and personnel buses are equipped with two-way radios for emergencies. All transport equipment units are under a preventive maintenance program. The mine site is under security with authorized entry policy enforced by specialized personnel.
At the mine site, one doctor and one certified nurse provide first aid, routine medical services and operate a fully equipped first aid clinic centre. Two ambulances, each equipped to accommodate a stretcher and containing appropriate medical supplies, are on standby at the mill building. Emergency medivac from the mine site is available as necessary.
All company and contractor employees are trained in the use of the Five Point Safety System and the Work Place Hazardous Information System before commencing work at the site. First aid, mine rescue and fire fighting training is provided at the site on a regular schedule. Full mine rescue and fire fighting teams are always available on site with current qualifications to address any emergency. The site is equipped with a fire truck. Hydrants were installed strategically throughout the major facility areas. Fire fighting equipment is stored at convenient locations, ready for use.
Kumtor's Safety Program has been audited internally on an annual basis and through two external reviews since 1999. The last external detailed review of the safety program took place in 2001 during the development of the formal Health and Safety Management System (HSMS) by Golder Associates. During the HSMS development process, a Hazardous Identification, Risk Assessment, and Control process was carried out with all Kumtor facilities and departments, resulting in a number of corrective actions being performed. Prior to this, James Pirie & Associates conducted an independent audit of Kumtor's safety program and workplace conditions in 1999 and concluded that Kumtor's occupational health and safety practices comply with sound international mining practices.
All safety and environmental initiatives are tracked through Kumtor's Corrective & Prevention Action Ledger system and are reviewed at site in morning meetings and on a monthly basis.
The accident frequency rate has declined from the range of 0.4 to 0.5 per 200,000 man-hours in 1997 through 1999 to a level of 0.2 in 2005. This is an excellent record which record, which compares favourably with large-scale open-pit operations elsewhere in the world.