I’d say we have the greatest job in the world. From the moment an exploration geologist kicks over a rock and says “This looks interesting,” to the closure and release of a mine property, Land Management is involved.
I’ve worked in mining for more than 32 years and I’ve witnessed dramatic changes in land management practices. Decades ago, you would try to get a mine established and if it worked, it worked. If not, you moved on. Today, modern mining companies are geared much more toward sustainability, the environment and stewardship of the land. The deposits we handle are much larger, and Barrick will be involved with mining and reclamation for decades.
At Barrick, we do our utmost to be a good neighbor and work well within the local community to achieve our goals. At the end of the day, Barrick is a business and we have to make a profit to exist. But we want our communities to share in the benefits of mining, and to be the company of choice for the local community. To meet these ends, we work with and within the local communities to meet our shared goals.
Barrick owns large swaths of ranch land in Nevada. This land serves as a buffer around our operations and gives us the ability to offset the impacts of any land disturbance at our mines. The ranches we own are a godsend for wildlife, as we have the opportunity to improve and conserve habitats. Because our income does not depend on raising cattle or growing hay, we have the ability to let these areas rest. Most ranchers in Nevada don’t have the option of taking portions of their property out of production to benefit vulnerable animal species, such as Sage-Grouse or Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.
I am amazed by how quickly the land will regenerate when it is rested. Native plants and animals begin to return, and the overall health of the ecosystem improves. Our team works closely with our Environmental and Permitting teams to oversee the sustainable management of these ranches. If you look at what Barrick does and can do in certain areas, we’re a huge game changer.
The ranches are integral to managing our water rights. Water rights are handled differently depending on the state. In Nevada, for example, we need to remove water from our mine pits to prevent them from filling up and becoming lakes. Since Nevada is an extremely arid state, all groundwater that is removed must be put to a beneficial use. To meet these water use requirements, we pump it from our Cortez mine to our Dean ranch; in addition our Goldstrike mine provides water into the local system for the benefit of the water basin users. The water is then used as irrigation for the crops, or returned to the aquifer in the rapid infiltration basins. The water management process is driven by sampling results and water chemistry. It is either cleaned (if necessary) or sent to these basins for re-injection. At the end of the day, all water released by Barrick meets or exceeds state drinking water standards.
As part of my job, I also work with local farmers and ranchers, company presidents, and everyone in between. When we speak to local ranchers and farmers, my team has the opportunity to be the face of Barrick. Sometimes our work can be as easy as obtaining a temporary permit to cross the rancher’s or farmer’s property; other times it can be as complex as negotiating a deal to purchase their property. If their property has mineral potential, we talk to them about leasing it to us for exploration purposes.
All of these activities are overseen by a number of third parties, mostly state and federal agencies. We also value the input of strong internal management. This helps to ensure that we’re in compliance with local laws and with our permits, and that we’re mitigating our impacts on the environment.
There are very few aspects of Barrick’s operation, from exploration to closure, that the Land Department does not play an active role in. We interact with mine managers, exploration geologists, and everyone in between. This provides us with a unique understanding of all aspects of our operations. And that’s why I think land management is the greatest job in the company!