Barrick Beyond Borders: There’s a first time for everything [Cyanide free gold]

Barrick produced the first of millions of ounces of gold at its Goldstrike mine using patented technology that will save jobs and allow it to continue to contribute funds to the state of Nevada

In late November 2014, the Goldstrike mine poured a small but significant bar of gold. At 107 ounces, the pour amounted to just one-eighth the size of a typical doré gold bar, but it marked the first time the mine had produced gold using its patented thiosulfate processing method. In fact, it marked the first time any company in the western world had successfully produced gold using thiosulfate.

Long viewed as a potential alternative to cyanide, which is typically used to recover gold that is trapped inside ore, thiosulfate is a difficult chemical to master. Barrick spent more than two decades perfecting its thiosulfate processing method and relied on an unmatched level of scientific and technological expertise.

“It’s the culmination of years of hard work and a good example of how our partnership culture is manifesting itself on the ground,” says Goldstrike General Manager Andy Cole. “This was a huge initiative, and it would not have succeeded if it weren’t for the collaboration, trust and accountability that developed between our project team, the construction group and the Goldstrike operations team.”

The initiative, known as the TCM (total carbonaceous matter) project, involved a $620 million investment that included major upgrades to the Goldstrike leaching circuits and new infrastructure at site. Part of that infrastructure is a thiosulfate plant that will ensure that a steady supply of the chemical is readily available.

A new water treatment plant will allow large volumes of thiosulfate to be recycled, which is critical because it will reduce the cost of purchasing new thiosulfate and make the project economically viable. The project also required the construction of dozens of large storage tanks to house solutions and chemicals, and a labyrinth of pipes to transport those materials—water, natural gas, compressed air and calcium thiosulfate—around the site.

Like an ant colony, only bigger

At the peak of construction during the summer of 2014, the TCM project site resembled a very busy ant colony. More than 1,400 workers performed numerous tasks such as laying electrical wiring, welding steel and fitting pipes. At least a dozen cranes transported heavy parts to their designated areas. Trucks roared, machines hummed, and huge banners permeated the site reminding workers that their safety must always come first. “Safety is about doing the right thing even when no one is looking,” one banner read.

All told, the TCM project required 4,000 tons of steel, 20,000 cubic yards of concrete, more than 900,000 feet of cable and 200,000 feet of piping. At peak construction, more than 20 companies toiled on the project, the majority of them from Nevada.

“It’s been a huge boon to the area,” says Tony Carroll, a veteran project manager at Goldstrike, who oversaw the construction work.

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