Pueblo Viejo: Breathing new life into an old town

Pueblo Viejo: Breathing new life into an old town

When two giants of any industry come together to work on a project, it’s usually something special. The shared expertise, resources and reputations have the potential to create synergies which wouldn’t otherwise exist if either of the two companies undertook the project on their own.

This was the thinking when two giants of the gold mining industry, Barrick and Goldcorp, came together to work found the Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation (PVDC) a joint venture created to develop Pueblo Viejo, a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, located approximately 100 kilometres northwest of the capital city of Santo Domingo.

Pueblo Veijo achieved its first gold production five years ago, in 2012 and completed its ramp up two years later in 2014. In 2016, it produced around 1.2 million ounces of gold. This number is expected to remain more or less consistent into 2017, and the mine has just under 13.5 million ounces of proven and probable gold reserves.

The mine at Pueblo Viejo is an outstanding example of running a successful joint venture. It features open pit mining at two large pits, Moore and Montenegro, and a satellite pit, Monte Oculto Norte. It is a conventional truck and shovel operation, with its processing take place via autoclave, carbon in leach (CIL) and copper precipitation.

All of its vital statistics, from gold and silver production, through to OEE (overall equipment efficiency – a commonly-used indicator in the mining industry) improved year on year in 2016, while costs were pushed down across the board, and most importantly, reported injuries were down 25% on 2016 figures.

In addition, 2016 saw the mine being awarded Barrick’s most improved safety performance among all its mines, as well as implementing a business improvement program and an employee development center for the 1,000 or so people that the company employs in the Pueblo Viejo area.

Research conducted by the University of Queensland and the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) in 2011 showed that Pueblo Viejo stands to bring considerable benefits to the region over its lifetime. This is witnessed both in terms of the social and economic benefits that accrue to the region from developing the mine.

For example, the research showed that salaries in Pueblo Viejo generated each year total close to $90m – a considerable amount in an area with traditionally high levels of unemployment. This doesn’t include indirect employment created by the venture, which the report estimates could be in excess of 11,000 jobs.

Barrick and GoldCorp both run extensive CSR programmes across all their mining projects – especially important in an industry where many of the assets are located in economically distressed areas. The example of Pueblo Viejo, where close to 40% of the local population were living below the poverty line, is a case in point.

Both Barrick and GoldCorp were cognizant of this harsh reality and set about developing new social initiatives as soon as they arrived in the Dominican Republic in 2009. These included the strengthening of local agricultural production systems, the establishment of training and facilities to improve nutrition, small business development centers and more.

The PVDC also signed an agreement in January 2009 with four local municipalities, to implement sustainable development plans for the region, whose goals are to improve education and health as well as preserving the traditions of the area. These are currently being put into action with the help of local government.

Local and International Partnerships
What’s particularly notable about the list of partnerships that PVDC has developed for the Pueblo Viejo project is the distinctly Dominican flavour. In reality, only two of the company’s major partners are international: the Hatch engineering consulting company and the Monte Rio Power Corporation.

Elsewhere, the partners are all Dominican – which goes some way to explaining why the University of Queensland report estimated that the project would create in excess of 11,000 jobs indirectly for the economy. The Dominican companies include La Antillana Comercial, Grana y Montero, Redsea Housing and PBS Dominica.

2017 and beyond
The company has already set its sights on new operational targets for 2017. These include plans for energy expansion and optimization and critical overall equipment effectiveness. Importantly for sustainability, there are also plans afoot to change the existing power plant from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to liquid natural gas (LNG) or biofuel, and to convert the lime kilns from diesel to natural gas or biofuel.

At the end of 2017, it also reached an agreement with the Dominican Republic government to rehabilitate the historical heated stand facility, which cements the company’s presence in the country and its part in developing its future. Pueblo Viejo roughly translates as ‘old town’ but thanks to PVDC and the progress it’s making, some new life is now breathing through that old town.

For More On This Company Visit www.barrickpuebloviejo.do

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