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Tailings management at DRDGOLD

4th April 2024

     

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DRDGOLD produces gold by the large-scale retreatment of mine waste stored in dormant mine dumps and old tailings storage facilities (TSFs). TSF safety therefore plays a prominent role at its operations.

DRDGOLD comprises two subsidiaries: Ergo Mining Proprietary Limited (Ergo) located some 50km east of Johannesburg in Brakpan; and Far West Gold Recoveries (FWGR) near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg.

The Company has proven capabilities in developing infrastructure for surface tailings reprocessing through scale and by optimising technology. By retreating these old TSFs or mine waste stockpiles, land is cleared and rehabilitated, and the environmental legacy of mining is reversed.

The Company subscribes to the contemporary imperative of greater transparency and enhanced governance in terms of the technical standards, safety and environmental impact of TSFs. This commitment has led DRDGOLD to implement the following:

  • A Group-wide policy and standard on the management of TSFs at the Company’s operations
  • A Tailings Management Manual comprising of a Code of Practice, Management System, Operations Manual and Emergency Preparedness Response Plan (all of which underwent extensive review during 2021/2022)
  • An Internal Tailings Performance Management System, a centralised web-based platform dedicated to data collection, storage and processing to ensure the integrity of the data for day-to-day management and oversight purposes
  • The appointment of a Tailings Manager dedicated to the TSFs
  • Quarterly drone surveillance
  • Historical Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (“InSAR”) imagery for mapping ground deformation over large areas, satellite surveying and thermal imaging
  • Ongoing research into various technologies, which could be employed to enhance TSF observation and monitoring
  • Independent oversight through an External Tailings Review Panel with annual reviews
  • A governance and controls framework that includes a quarterly dashboard summary of key dynamics for the Board
  • In line with the Company’s Combined Assurance Framework, outcomes of assurance reviews are reported to the Risk Committee
  • A programme to evaluate the geotechnical status of storage facilities (stability assessments)

DRDGOLD’s journey: Building on SANS to Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM)

DRDGOLD is transitioning from the South African National Standards on tailings management (SANS 10286) to a management system for TSFs that is not only compliant to SANS 10286 but also aligned with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM). The standard captures the principles published by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) for tailings, which is a requirement for all its members.

Although not yet a GISTM member, DRDGOLD is proactively aligning itself with the standard. During FY2023, both management and the Board paid close attention to the development of the GISTM and its principles and requirements. The Company has assessed all its active TSFs against this code, which has led to it strengthening its governance requirements as per the GISTM. These included, but were not limited to the:

  • Development of a new TSF-focused governance framework
  • Overhaul of TSF-related policies into a single Board-approved policy
  • Improvement of operational documentation to assist in site-level validation and third-party assessments
  • The Company’s TSFs and their operational statuses:

TSF name

Operational status

Brakpan

Operating

Driefontein Dam 4

Operating

GMTS

Dormant

Diepkloof/Homestead

Dormant

Mooifontein

Dormant

Daggafontein

Care and maintenance

The overall conformance for the Brakpan TSF at Ergo and the Driefontein Dam 4 TSF at FWGR is 88% and 91% respectively. DRDGOLD has completed site-level self-assessments and will do a third-party validation of conformance during 2024. The Company has uploaded the progress and findings of the gap analysis included in the the GISTM Public Disclosure Report on the Company website at: www.drdgold.com/sustainability/tailings-management.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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