Leadership Insights:
Climate Change, Biodiversity and Water

“As organizations move to address climate change, stakeholders are also seeing there is a role for industry to play in conservation of shared resources (nature and water).”



Briana Gunn, Group Executive, Environment, looks at the intersecting impacts of mining, climate change, biodiversity, and water, and how we can move toward a truly sustainable world.

You’ve spent a great deal of your career at Newmont working in the water, tailings, and biodiversity space. What has changed over the course of your time in this industry?

The biggest change is that mining companies have said, “it’s important to look at reducing environmental impact,” at the start of a project rather than the end. Early in my career, I worked mostly in closure. We were looking at mines that had been there 30, 40 years, and asking “how do you fix a situation? How do you regrade? How do you re-vegetate? How do you put in water systems that will stay in place and reduce your operations and maintenance over time?” But now, we start at the beginning of a project, before even, to really get a clear understanding of the impacts that mining in an area will have, including what are the shared impacts that extend outside the boundary of our operations.

Moving that focus to the beginning has impacts on gaining social acceptance from external stakeholders and securing our license to operate.

Biodiversity moved to a highly material issue in Newmont’s materiality matrix. What drove that change?

The world has a better understanding, first, of how climactic conditions are having an impact on water and nature, and second, how those impacts lead back to an impact on human life and experiences. There’s a growing recognition that there’s an integration of the elements our planet needs to thrive: certain things need to be in place, and one of them is biodiversity. Biodiversity helps support species, habitat, and water — and all these things that humans also need to survive.

There’s an acknowledgement that biodiversity is important to our planet and industry needs to play a role in conservation by taking action.

What can individual mining companies do to address climate change holistically, not only by decarbonizing operations, but also by protecting and rehabilitating biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems?

First, when companies are developing their projects and solutions for decarbonization, they need to look at the holistic impact of that solution. They can’t introduce a solution that reduces emissions but has a substantial impact on sustaining ecosystems. When you’re developing projects, you must understand the trade-offs, the exchange, between decisions and evaluate them so you understand the additional impact that you might have and take this into consideration.

Second, companies should consider nature-based solutions or perspectives as part of their climate strategy and emission reduction roadmap. They need to consider what are the solutions that can support CO2 reduction, but also enhance an ecosystem.

Much of the discussion around climate change has focused on global impacts, rather than on local impacts. What does climate change look like from the perspective of a local mine?

Climate change can be found locally or regionally. We see it globally with drought, increased heat, wildfires, and rising sea levels and flooding. On a local scale, you see increased pressure — on the mine and surrounding communities — to be more resilient to these changes. Newmont has completed work to understand the impacts of climate change on a local scale and is developing plans for resiliency and adaptation for ourselves as well as to support the communities and ecosystems around our operations. It’s important for us to understand that extended risk, and then put things in place to help support communities. Some communities may not have plans or other sources of support when natural disasters occur, whatever the cause. There may be no organization to help, certainly on an emergency basis, other than Newmont.

What are your thoughts on the increased focus from investors and other stakeholders on how companies are addressing water management and biodiversity protection? What can Newmont and the mining industry do to ensure that its activities are in harmony with nature?

I love that stakeholders are asking these questions and recognizing that there are shared resources out there that are being impacted by different industries and that if the right actions are taken, those shared resources could be sustained into the future.

To do that, you must take a hard look at the mitigation hierarchy across your project finding ways to avoid, minimize, rehabilitate, and offset environmental impacts you find. It is also important to set goals, such as No Net Loss, and then measure your progress through short- and long-term targets. As an industry, I think we get nervous sometimes about setting specific targets in areas because we’re worried that we’re not going to get there. But I think if we don’t take a hard look at those impacts and say, “What can we do to either not have it or reverse it?” then we’re not going to make any change.

Leadership in Action:
Securing Water Availability for Communities in Mexico

In 2019, Newmont participated in a formal dialogue process with the San Juan de Cedros (Cedros) community — one of 25 communities near our Peñasquito operation in Mexico — to address the community’s concerns about impacts to the local water supplies and social benefits.

A notable outcome of the dialogue process, which was facilitated and supported by Mexico’s Ministry of Interior (SEGOB), was an announcement in December 2019 that Newmont and the Cedros community had reached a 30-year water agreement that ensured availability of water for the community’s domestic and agricultural uses.

Today, the Cedros community receives potable water from a modern and efficient reverse osmosis water treatment plant, fully constructed and operated by Newmont. Two wells have been drilled to supply water to the treatment plant.

Permitting processes are underway to construct a sewage treatment plant that will be operated by the Municipality of Mazapil (where Cedros is located). Newmont is also finalizing the design of a community pool, a baseball field, a water retention dam and an irrigation project that will connect with the deep well that was drilled and equipped by Newmont and donated to farmers in the community.

Peñasquito representatives continue to meet with the newly elected Cedros community representatives each month. The current plan is to finalize all the projects by August 2024.