"Newmont will always remain a gold miner, but copper and gold produced together will go hand in hand as a very important metal for decarbonization, along with a very important metal in terms of a store of wealth that improves lives.”
What have been some of the highlights in 2021 as Newmont celebrates its 100 year anniversary?
There are many parts of the Newmont culture we have today that are a product of the journey we have been on. We are fortunately to have had a lot of stability: I am only the 10th CEO in the 100-year history, and in every instance except one they were all internal successors, which brings a lot of continuity.
In Canada in 2021 we established Newmont’s Global Center for Indigenous Community Relations in Vancouver, which was one of the things we committed to as we reentered Canada when acquiring Goldcorp in 2019. Commemorating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as part of our inclusion and adversity program was another important step. In Québec, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Opinagow collaboration agreement with the Cree, which is one of 25 agreements we have in place with indigenous communities across Canada, 21 of which are in Ontario.
We acquired GT Gold, which gave us the Saddle North deposit in British Columbia, consolidating Newmont in the Golden Triangle region and giving us the opportunity to develop a copper-gold mine with a very low carbon footprint, as well as establishing an operating position in BC from which to leverage off to our Galore Creek partnership with Teck.
From a technology standpoint, we announced and commissioned the industry’s first autonomous haulage mine – the Boddington mine in Australia. This project links to a strategic alliance we announced with Caterpillar in October 2021, to develop a fully integrated mining system that thinks about operating a mine in the future with technology necessary for decarbonization.
On the topic of capital allocation, Newmont is reinvesting over US$2 billion per year on sustainable capital, exploration and development. We are about to enter our biggest reinvestment period for the company in a generation, as we continue to develop Tanami 2 (TE2) in Australia, Ahafo North in Ghana, and bring on the sulfides project at our Yanacocha operation in Peru. On top of that, we are returning cash to shareholders through a dividend framework and share buyback program, which will return more than US$2 billion in 2021 whilst maintaining financial flexibility.
Can you provide an overview of Newmont’s portfolio of mines in Ontario?
Newmont has a significant presence in Ontario which includes the Musselwhite mine, the Porcupine gold mines complex, and the Borden mine. Our Musselwhite mine is a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operation that has already produced over 4 million ounces (Moz) of gold since it was commissioned, and produces in the region of 200,000 oz per year (oz/y). It has had considerable investment in recent times, including a new conveying system and a crushing material handling system that allows us to move ore more efficiently at depth. As the pandemic was unfolding in 2020 we proactively put the mine into care and maintenance and did not bring it back into operation until we could ensure the health and safety of our workers and local communities.
Porcupine is located in and around the city of Timmins and is made up of a number of operations and processing plants, including the Hoyle Pond underground mine and Hollinger open pit mine. Hollinger is nearing the end of its mine life, but we are just starting to bring on another nearby open pit, and have committed to installing infrastructure to de-water the site and then do a layback which will extend the life of Porcupine well beyond this decade.
Our Borden mine, which opened in 2019, feeds ore to the processing facilities in Timmins at the Porcupine complex. Borden is a mine of the future where we are looking to use electric technology, not only for that mine, but to prove the technology up and replicate it elsewhere, much like we are doing with autonomous haulage at Boddington in Australia.
How has Newmont’s joint venture with Barrick to establish Nevada Gold Mines (NGM) progressed?
Newmont has been operating in Nevada for over 60 years. We developed the technology to be able to release gold from the very fine, low-grade oxide ore in Nevada 60 years ago, which opened up the region. Then Nevada moved through processing of oxide ore to double refractory ore which needs more complex facilities to release the metal, such as roasters.
Roll the clock forward to 2019, both Newmont and Barrick had been operating in Nevada for a long period of time, with maturing operations that sat alongside each other. The reality was that production profiles were coming off and costs were going up as processing facilities that were built 30 years ago were constrained for the ore bodies being mined today. There were also some boundaries between ore bodies that were set up historically that were constraining both companies.
The opportunity that came with NGM was to combine processing facilities and deposits, which gives you many more options in terms of how you blend different ores together within the constraints of processing plants, particularly through the Carlin trend, out west at Turquoise Ridge and Twin Creeks, and also because a lot of ore from the Cortez mine gets sent through to Carlin. Through this optionality, operational life can be extended, costs can be reduced, and shareholders of both companies get the benefit.
NGM is the flagship example of how the gold industry can look for opportunities to consolidate within a region. The industry needs to consolidate, as mining at scale is required to fund the technology needed for decarbonization, and NGM presents a pathway for what that looks like.
Can you provide an update on Newmont’s plans to transition the Yanacocha mine in Peru from oxides to underground sulfides?
There are two sources of ore which will feed the first 20-year wave of the Yanacocha sulfides project. One is a layback of the Verde open pit – removing waste so the ore at depth moves out of the oxide into the sulfide ore. We will also have our first underground mine, a decline which is already in place coming in off the Chaquicocha underground, high-grade sulfide deposit. These are both straightforward mining processes. It is worth noting that half that metal will be copper, and we know the ore bodies very well.
The bulk of the investment is in the processing facilities, in the order of US$2 billion. We will install flotation plants to concentrate the low-grade ore, and then blend the concentrate with high-grade ore and put it through an autoclave. Pressure oxidation is used to release the copper, silver and gold, and also to neutralize the arsenic which is prevalent in all sulfide ores through the Andes. We are now (as of December 2021) into the detailed engineering phase with our EPCM contractor, Bechtel, with Hatch as a sub-contractor providing the autoclave technology.
We were originally on a schedule that had us moving towards seeking full funds for the project towards the end of 2021, but Peru has been one of the countries most impacted by the pandemic. Therefore we made a decision to progress the project at the pace which the pandemic allows, as it requires 3,000 people in a construction workforce to be moved into Cajamarca and onto the mine site, which we deemed a risk for our people and the local communities. This led us to delay the full funds decision to the second half of 2022. However, we are still committing to spend approximately US$500 million on the project through 2021 and the first half of 2022, on four key areas: building the camp for the construction workforce; doing all of the detailed engineering to de-risk the project; committing to long-lead items such as oxygen plants and specialist steel for autoclaves; and doing civil works with local contractors.
The Ahafo North project in Ghana was approved in July 2021. Can you tell us about this investment?
Ahafo North is the best unmined deposit in West Africa. It is about 30 km from our existing Ahafo mine, which has multiple open pits and an underground mine. Ahafo North is a standalone mine that will be a series of open pits and a mill. The ore body has 3.5 Moz of reserve and another 1 Moz of resource. Interestingly enough, it is exactly the same type of ore as we have at Newmont’s Merian mine in Suriname, being on the same regional fault structure when the continents were joined up. Ahafo North has an initial 13-year mine life that will produce around 300,000 oz/y, at an AISC of US$600 to US$700. We will spend between US$750 million and US$850 million to build it over a 3 year development timeframe, and we have approved full funds with all of our permits in place.
Combining the existing facilities at Ahafo with Ahafo North, we will have an operation that will produce between 700,000 and 800,000 oz/y of gold all throughout this decade and into the next, which is a significant gold complex by any measure. Furthermore, the upside potential to extend life across the complex truly makes Ahafo one of the great gold mining deposits in the world.
Which initiatives is Newmont working on to foster local talent in Ghana?
I am incredibly proud of the work that the Newmont Ghana team are doing. The team was recently named overall best organization in human resources practice at the 2021 HR Focus Awards, winning six awards, which is a reflection of the importance we put on the development of people and communities. It also reflects that our HR team has a seat at the table working very closely with our operational, technical and finance leaders.
There are three aspects of work happening in Ghana that I would call out. Gender parity at Ahafo North, particularly in the Ghanaian context, is an example of disrupting paradigms and having the courage to do something different. If we had just followed the easy path we could build and commission Ahafo North in a way that looks similar to the majority of mining projects around the world, which would be lucky to have 5% to 10% female workforce. Another program that leads into this is the apprenticeship scheme we have in place in Ghana where we train young people to operate and maintain equipment, in skills that live beyond the mine. Then we have some gender-specific programs, including a New Future for Girls leadership camp, which aims to build skills and prepare women for careers in technical fields.
Can you elaborate on Newmont’s decarbonization initiatives?
In 2020, Newmont led the gold industry to set targets for 2030 for the reduction of scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. We are committed to reducing our scope 1 and 2 emissions by more 30%, and our scope 3 emissions by 30% by 2030, with the ultimate goal of being net zero by 2050. Newmont will have those targets signed off by the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTI), and we are putting our money where our mouth is, committing US$500 million over the next five years to support these targets.
In the decarbonization effort we are working on three main areas. First of all, continuous improvement; we have a program called Full Potential which has been in place for over eight years and delivered more than US$4 billion of value across our operations. It is predicated upon all 12 of Newmont’s managed operations having a set of improvement projects which include carbon reduction initiatives in their business plans. When you reduce carbon intensity you are almost certainly improving efficiencies. The second big area is renewable energy – where we can use wind and solar to replace other forms of electricity generation around our business. This will be the key step change for Newmont as the decade progresses. The third area is how to introduce and support new technologies such as bringing in hydrogen or battery electric to replace diesel.
Can you outline Newmont’s core strategy and vision for ESG?
We have been on an ESG journey for over 30 years and have learned a lot of hard lessons from different experiences around the world – lessons which have been embedded into the fabric of our organization. There is an old African proverb which says, “if you want to go fast you go alone, if you want to go far we go together”, and that statement describes the approach that Newmont takes when it comes to ESG.
Newmont started reporting transparently 17 years ago, publishing a sustainability report with set targets that measured performance. We were also a founding member of ICMM, which has a strong focus on sustainability. From a governance standpoint, Newmont has had an executive accounting for sustainability for over 15 years, and a safety and sustainability committee to continuously improve our standards for over 15 years.
The key to ESG progress is not standing on your laurels and challenging the company to stretch itself to go further by making bold commitments, such as our strategic alliance with Caterpillar around BEVs or commitments to gender parity at Ahafo North.
Finally, what role do you think gold will play in a transition economy?
Gold has been a store of value for millennia and will be a store of value for a long time to come. Then you have to look at what role gold plays in society and what role it can play in the decarbonization effort. Newmont’s purpose as a company is to create value and improve lives through responsible, sustainable mining. Looking at the locations in which we operate, gold mining by reputable companies plays a huge role in creating wealth and improving the lives of local communities. As the world’s largest gold mining company, we look to set a standard that others can follow, and this is why the ESG piece is so important.
When it comes to decarbonization, as gold operations are developed, you will see more copper-gold mines coming online, such as Yanacocha or our projects in British Columbia. Newmont will always remain a gold miner, but copper and gold produced together will go hand in hand as a very important metal for decarbonization, along with a very important metal in terms of a store of wealth that improves lives.