We are committed to minimizing and mitigating our impacts on the environment in the areas in which we operate. We are vigilant in protecting the environment and seek ways to minimize our environmental footprint and always seek to exceed regulatory requirements in our environmental performance.

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ESHS Management System

Our Environmental, Social, Health and Safety (ESHS) Management System was created to support effective ESHS performance associated with mining activity, while also contributing to overall sustainability. The ESHS Management System was developed in alignment with requirements of ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007. These two internationally recognized standards are a best practice approach for the development of management systems. The management system is also aligned with the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards and applicable EHS guidelines.

By taking a “systems” approach, we integrate environmental, safety, health and social management disciplines into all of our business and management processes and activities across the Company.

ESHS Management System

Planning and Design

In 2006, the Company began conducting environmental and social baseline studies of the Aurora Mine site and surrounding areas. The Aurora Site is in Region VII of Guyana, a largely uninhabited area, and there were no communities within 40 kms. Therefore, public consultation and engagement was focused on the small village of Buckhall near the Company's port site and stakeholders in the region, such as the town of Bartica and the capital of Georgetown. These included an initial biodiversity survey carried out by WWF Guyana and more extensive environmental baseline studies in subsequent years. In addition, a series of social and health related studies were carried out by an international consultant selected by the IFC to assess the potential risks of the small scale miners active in the region.

In 2009, the first of three environmental and social impact assessments was submitted to the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency to obtain the environmental license for the Aurora Mine. In 2010, a second Environmental Social Impact Assessment (“ESIA”) was prepared to comply with IFC Performance Standards and was completed and submitted to the IFC. These two ESIA’s were based on the 2009 Pre-Feasibility Study for the Aurora Mine prepared by AMEC. A third updated ESIA was prepared in 2013 based on the Feasibility Study prepared by TetraTech and comments from the IFC on the 2010 ESIA. As a result, over three years of environmental baseline studies were conducted at the Aurora Mine site. No rare, threatened or endangered species were identified on the Aurora Mine concession or surroundings.

legend.jpg In keeping with the first two components of the mitigation hierarchy, avoid and minimize, the Company worked to reduce the planned footprint from the pre-feasibility study design footprint of 3,900 hectares to 1,900 hectares in the 2013 Feasibility Study, and finally to the current 900-hectare footprint including access roads. This represents an 80% reduction in the Aurora Mine’s footprint, providing a significant reduction in forest cleared and overall impact to the environment and local biodiversity.

Biodiversity Monitoring

The Company has developed a Biodiversity Monitoring Program for the Aurora Mine Concession, a 5,000-hectare area in Region VII, with guidance from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on monitoring and data analysis methods and use of trail cameras.

The monitoring program has been designed to address three questions or hypotheses:

  • How has the biodiversity (terrestrial wildlife) responded to the presence and operational disturbance of the project over time?
  • Are there discernible differences in terms of number of species and individuals as distance from the Project envelope increases?
  • Has the protection of the concession from hunting created a refugium for the species likely subjected to the heaviest harvesting pressure by small scale miners in the area?

 

The monitoring program began in 2016 and will allow determination of species richness, distribution, and species density as an indicator abundance over time.

Royal flycatcher (Onychorynchus coronatus)
Royal flycatcher (Onychorynchus coronatus)
Three-striped poison frog (Ameerega tivittatus)
Three-striped poison frog (Ameerega tivittatus)
Brown Sipa (Chironius fuscus)
Brown Sipa (Chironius fuscus)
Biologists conducting a survey along a transect
Biologists conducting a survey along a transect

Revegetation

As a part of the progressive restoration program, The Company has been working since 2013 to develop methods for revegetating areas disturbed during construction. The primary focus of this effort has been along the 27 km Tapir to Aurora access road developed by the Company.

At the outset of program development, soil samples were collected and analyzed by the Guyana Sugar Company’s soils laboratory. As is typical of moist tropical forest soils, nutrients and organic matter were extremely limited. The site team has experimented with the use of fertilizers to encourage or increase growth of vegetation with good success.

In addition, The Company has developed several techniques to rapidly revegetate areas with native species. Chief among these is our “rake back” technique. This method pulls back the woody debris and surface soil dozed to the side during road construction which contains a seed bank of native herbaceous and woody species. Once pulled back and spread along the road margins, there is rapid germination and growth of a number of native species from the seed bank. A Cecropia species is typically the dominant woody species and can attain heights of several meters in 9-12 months.

The Company has also experimented with commercially available grass seed, and grass seeds harvested from a native Paspalum sp. Due to the need for significant quantities of seed for hydroseeding and the time demand for harvesting native seeds, the program now relies on commercially available grass seed, but caution was exercised in choosing a candidate to avoid introducing potentially invasive species.

 

After conducting an evaluation effort, Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) was selected for the following reasons:

 

native

Native ferns have invaded an area stabilized with Bermuda grass.
Photo taken one year after the original seeding with Bermuda grass.

  • It has been naturalized in Guyana for over 25 years and is a common species in lawns in the capital, Georgetown
  • It requires full sun to persist (i.e., it cannot persist under a forest canopy which is the natural vegetation in the Aurora Mine region)
  • It is rhizomatous and stoloniferous, hence is an excellent choice for stabilizing slopes in a heavy rainfall environment along with erosion control fabrics
  • Native herbaceous and fern species readily invade areas stabilized with Bermuda grass (see below photograph)

Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)

ESIA Appendices

Strategy

The Company's Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability strategy encompasses these main areas: