Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship

Our Approach

Northern Star recognises the importance of maintaining responsible stewardship of our natural environment to minimise any adverse impacts from our operations and to enable valuable ecosystems to be protected.  

The long term sustainability of our business is underpinned by sound environmental practices, continuous improvement, ongoing research and monitoring, and education for our workforce.

Our ESS Committee and Board provide oversight on the management practices, capability and effectiveness of our environmental practices.

Environmental Management System

Northern Star values the diverse environments in which we operate, and we are committed to ongoing demonstrated performance improvements in our stewardship of these important ecosystems. Our Environmental Policy, Global Standards and Environmental Management System (EMS) provide a framework to facilitate our management and protection of the natural resources we are proud to be given access to. 

Targeted management plans are developed to provide additional guidance on site and region-specific requirements. These documents and processes are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure proactive and continual improvement, and adaptation to new issues or risks that arise.

Northern Star’s environmental management system is based on the Principals of ISO14001:2015. We recently engaged an independent third-party consultant to conduct a full assessment of our corporate and site EMS in terms of alignment and application. The assessment also incorporated a gap analysis against the ISO14001:2015 Standard to ensure our EMS is aligned to the Standard’s requirements.

This allows us to better understand areas for continuous improvement in our systems, procedures and processes by:

Our operations all operate under relevant government approvals, including Mining Proposals, Mine Permit (Alaska), Water Licences,  and Operating Licences. All operations also have in place approved Closure Plans and set aside financial provisions for implementing these plans at the end of a mine’s life.  We conduct our exploration activities in accordance with our tenement conditions and, where needed, Plans of Work.

Our environmental management capability is complemented by our corporate and site-based environmental professionals.

Climate Change

Northern Star’s continued alignment with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) assists us to understand and build resilience in relation to the physical and transitional risks posed by climate change. As part of our risk mitigation strategy, Northern Star is focused on:

  • Assessing and reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission footprint;
  • Assessing the physical risks of climate change on our operations, including potential water stress; and
  • Strengthening our climate change governance by reviewing our climate change related risks and ensuring control measures are incorporated into our business practices.

Northern Star’s Position on Climate Change

  • We accept the science of climate change as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • We are committed to the Paris Agreement and a net zero carbon future, on a 1.5°C pathway
  • We acknowledge the invitation made to the private sector by the United Nations to scale up efforts and support actions to reduce emissions and/or build resilience and decrease vulnerability to adverse effects of climate change. 
  • We understand the importance of understanding and adapting to climate change related risks.

Decarbonisation Strategy

Northern Star is committed to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 35% by 2030, on the way to net zero operational emissions by 2050.  This target is central to all business and strategic planning. Increased efficiencies and emission reductions are incorporated into decision making, current day operations, future projects, and business development. Carbon pricing considerations will be taken into account in decision making.

More than 70% of Northern Star’s greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from both generated and purchased electricity. The efficient use of cleaner electricity sources is therefore the primary area of focus for Northern Star in achieving absolute reduction in emissions. Our interim target demonstrates that by 2030, we intend to be on track to achieve our net zero emissions by 2050.

Northern Star’s 2030 emissions reduction pathway showing anticipated project commissioning timelines

Current Carbon Footprint

In CY2021, our total Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions increased from 693,347 t CO2-e to 1,169,524 t CO2-e. This increase was due to the larger operational footprint of the merged entity. The emissions intensity (total emissions generated per ounce of gold sold) has also increased slightly from 0.71 t CO2-e/oz to 0.76 t CO2-e/oz due to Northern
Star's expanded percentage of open pit production and the current level of non renewable energy utilised in the commercial grid power.

Further information on our emissions and energy metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

 

Water Criticality

Access to water is a fundamental human right.  Water is also critical to our operations. The majority of our sites exist in areas with high baseline water stress, and we are committed to using and managing this valuable resource sustainably to ensure shared users and the environment are not adversely impacted. Our Water Management Global Standard and site-specific Water Management Plans further strengthen this commitment by detailing key practices and processes for managing water use. 

Comprehensive water balances are also utilised across our operations to manage site specific water resources and ensure our site Environmental and Operational teams have clear oversight of water abstraction, recycling, discharge and consumption. We consistently look for strategies to improve efficiencies and reduce water consumption across our operations, in consultation with our stakeholders and other shared water users. 

Net water consumption per operational centre (ML)

Our total water withdrawal intensity was 0.03ML/oz for CY2021, total freshwater consumption was 0.002ML/oz and total other water consumption was 0.01ML/oz.  Further information on our water metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

Waste Management

Recycling and Landfill Distribution

Our efforts to minimise and manage waste across our operations are guided by our Waste Management Global Standard, which places a focus on reducing, reusing and recycling as priorities for waste management. Treatment and disposal of waste products into landfill or incineration facilities should be a final option considered. Each of our sites frequently considers additional opportunities to recycle materials where possible, reducing overall waste production.

Wastes that cannot be reused or recycled are disposed of in onsite landfill facilities or sent to offsite landfill and incineration facilities, dependent on the type of waste. For example, hydrocarbon contaminated materials such as oily rags are sent offsite for incineration as they are unable to be placed in landfill due to contamination risks. 

Wastes are transported from our sites to licenced facilities and waste management service providers via approved freight companies with controlled waste licences as required. Onsite landfill facilities are managed in accordance with the relevant licence and permit conditions in each region to ensure risks to the surrounding environments are mitigated.

Distribution of Waste (Excluding Waste Rock and Tailings)

Further information on our waste management metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

Waste Rock Management & Reuse

Waste rock is material mined from our operations that does not contain gold at economic levels. This material must be disposed of to waste rock landforms or backfilled into open pit or underground voids. Backfilling waste rock is Northern Star’s first preference as it eliminates the need to create permanent landforms in the environment, while decreasing safety risks associated with open voids. However, backfilling relies on availability and distance to barren voids and is not always practical.

Waste Rock Production (T)

Due to the merger with Saracen in CY2021 the historical data for those sites are not included in
CY2020 or CY2019. KCGM data shows as 100% from CY2021, explaining the increase from CY2020.

Further information on our waste rock metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

Tailings Management

Tailings are a combination of the fine-grained (typically silt-sized) solid materials remaining after the recoverable gold has been extracted from mined ore, together with the water used in the recovery process. Northern Star deposits tailings material into four different types of tailings facilities across its operations.

  • Paddock – style facilities: Most utilised in arid environments and consist of dams with walls constructed from compacted earthen material, slurry waste and water. 
  • In-pit facilities: These are used where open pit mining voids have been successfully mined of all ore and are then used for deposition and filling with tailings. 
  • Dry stack facilities: These facilities require water to be removed from the tailings before it is transported to the tailings facility. 
  • Underground tailings backfill (or paste fill): Tailings material can be utilised on some sites as a component of cemented hydraulic backfill underground. Most of the fines and liquid are removed from the tailings at onsite paste backfill plants and the remaining paste is delivered underground for use in controlled conditions.

Northern Star actively reviews its management of tailings facilities against both internal and external standards to ensure best practice.  Further information on Northern Star’s tailings facilities are available here:  Northern Star’s Tailings Disclosure Report  - 2021

Tailings Production and Recycling (T)

Due to the merger with Saracen in CY2021​ the historical data for those sites are not included in CY2020 or
CY2019. KCGM data shows as 100% from CY2021, explaining the increase from CY2020.

Further information on our tailings metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

Biodiversity

Northern Star’s Operations are located in a variety of natural environments, each with its own unique biodiversity values. Our Biodiversity Management Global Standard provides the guidance for managing biodiversity across all of our operations, with supporting plans and procedures developed at a site level to address issues specific to each site. 

To strengthen our  understanding and manage potential impacts to biodiversity, flora and fauna surveys are undertaken in areas of proposed direct impact and surrounding areas prior to any disturbances. These surveys provide information on the biodiversity values surrounding our operations which can be included in site and project risk assessments, and assist in our general  understanding of biodiversity values within a region.

All clearing works are carefully managed with internal Disturbance Permits required prior to any clearing. These permits cannot be issued without environmental personnel conducting relevant checks to ensure biodiversity values are protected. During exploration works, our teams minimise clearing of trees where possible when creating exploration tracks. Exploration works are then rehabilitated within 6 months of completion of works. 

Malleefowls captured on monitoring cameras at an active nest at Carosue Dam

Further information on our biodiversity metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.

Air Quality

Northern Star monitors and manages key air quality metrics across our operations and local communities located adjacent to our operations. Air quality is typically influenced by industrial emissions, cars, planes, household emissions including wood fired heaters, bushfires and controlled burn offs, dust from unsealed roads and construction development, degraded lands and many other sources.

Sulphur Dioxide 

Our Kanowna Belle processing plant incorporates a roaster to allow processing of sulphidic ore. The sulphidic ore prevents gold from being extracted efficiently during the normal process. Kanowna Belle has implemented an Air Quality Control system (AQC). The system consists of a network of monitoring instruments dedicated to measuring sulphur dioxide concentrations and atmospheric conditions within the region (Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Kurrawang, Coolgardie and Kambalda), to ensure the roasting in conducted in controlled manner.  The AQC system combines dynamic SO2 network and meteorological monitoring data with predictive logic to calculate a recommended roaster status i.e., ON or OFF. This is supported by a roaster auto-shutdown sequence with a 5-minute delay in the event that roaster personnel do not act on an ‘OFF' recommendation immediately.  This system allows us to manage potential air quality impacts from our operations.

Air quality results are reported to the Australian and United States Governments via several mechanisms:

Further information on our air emissions metrics are available in our Performance Data Tables – 2021.