What impact has the growing importance of sustainability and ESG had on the gold mining industry, and what’s in store for gold prices next year?
NEO spoke with Aidar Assaubayev, CEO of London-listed AltynGold, one of the leading gold mining companies in Kazakhstan.
1. What is AltynGold doing to reduce its emissions and protect the environment?
Protecting the environment is a key priority for AltynGold Plc.
Permanent environmental monitoring is in place at all our subsidiaries. To ensure that the analysis is objective, third parties from accredited laboratories are actively involved in the monitoring.
Environmental activities include keeping ambient air clean through emissions reduction. The main sources of emissions in plants (such as the sorting and crushing complex, a conveyor transfer unit, furnace, laboratory, etc.) are equipped with state-of-the-art dust collecting mechanisms. Checks and servicing take place on a daily basis to ensure that the dust collectors are working effectively.
A running count of greenhouse gases and ozon-depleting substances is updated daily. Because the company’s emissions amount to less than 3,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, no quota is needed on its emissions of greenhouse gases.
An inventory is also taken annually, the results of which are included in a report on the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). That information is provided to the regional Environment Department. Polychlorobiphenyls are not used at any of our locations.
The company’s emissions into the atmosphere and water are both within the authorised level. No excess emissions were recorded by the IEC (Industrial Environmental Control) of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources.
Furthermore, the company is currently undertaking work to make its industrial sites and sanitary protection zone greener and more ecological.
We also pay particular attention to our personnel’s environmental training. The staff participate in state-organised activities (such as the ‘Paris’ competition for social responsibility in business). In recognition of its work in 2020, Baurgold Group – a subsidiary of AltynGold Plc – was nominated for an award “for contribution to the environment.”
2. What is the global gold mining industry doing to reduce emissions and protect the environment?
In 2019, the World Gold Council (WGC) announced its Reponsible Gold Mining Principles, which identify 51 barriers to sustainable development, including environmental and social aspects, as well as governmental oversight, including combatting corruption and supply chain difficulties. Many of these problems are not specific to any one type of mining, but some are particularly relevant when it comes to gold, including cyanide and mercury management, as well as work with artisanal and small-scale gold miners.
When it comes to environmental management, the goal of gold mining companies is to completely prevent accidents that could have a negative impact on the environment. Gold miners strive to continuously improve industrial processes and equipment in order to meet these goals. Gold mining companies are constantly working on energy conservation and reduced use of water resources.
3. What impact has your increased focus on ESG had on your relationship with investors and lenders?
The ESG trend is being driven by the investors themselves. If ESG criteria used to be taken into account only by a small number of investment funds, nowadays, a gold mining company that does not prioritize new industry standards – or even worse, ignores them – risks scaring off serious investors.
In the recent past, ESG initiatives used to attract interest only from individual investors who focused on green projects (for example, Scandinavian pension funds). Now, the majority of large funds, such as Blackrock (one of the world’s largest investment funds with trillions of dollars in assets), are increasingly focusing on ESG. Now, for gold mining companies, it is no longer a matter of attracting money from a certain investment fund, but of avoiding having capital cut off. As part of the procedure for obtaining a corporate loan, gold mining companies now need to provide lots of documentation related to sustainable development.
4. Is your company donating any money towards charitable causes? If so, which projects specifically?
This is one of AltynGold’s biggest priorities. Firstly, AltynGold actively participates in quality-of-life improvements for the residents of Sekisovka, a village in Kazakhstan. The company employs locally and works with the local government. It has repaired the bridge over the Sekisovka River, and with the support from other local businesses, it has built a new sports club and sponsored a school and a library. AltynGold takes part in culture and society, participating in Victory Day, the Kazakh holiday of Nauryz Meiramy, Children’s Day, etc. The company provides assistance to the local population wherever possible.
5. What are your gold price predictions for next year?
We are quite conservative when it comes to forecasting gold prices and budgeting for our company. We use a variety of analytical tools, including the Bloomberg analyst median gold price forecast. The total cost of AltynGold products for the first half of 2021 dropped significantly to $766 per ounce. We are confident in the company’s current financial position. Even if the gold price were to drop to $1,250 per ounce (it’s about $1,865 at the time of writing), the company would have no problems with paying off its obligations.