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Environmental Incidents and Regulatory Compliance

New Gold sites must internally report and rank notable environmental incidents regardless of their regulatory significance.

Our Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting Standard includes an Incident Reporting and Ranking Table, in which severity of incidents is ranked catastrophic, major, moderate, minor or low. This is an internal standard that ensures that the appropriate level of control and response is applied to any incident. It also categorizes incidents consistently across all jurisdictions by identifying those events that are significant to New Gold independent of local regulations. Since New Gold began reporting in 2008, there have been no major spills and no environmental incidents rated “major” or “catastrophic”.

All New Gold sites strive to comply with all appropriate environmental laws and regulations. We work with the appropriate government agencies, partners and key communities of interest in an effort to ensure that our activities meet or exceed their requirements.

Should any incidents occur, we are committed to prompt reporting and remedial measures to prevent or minimize environmental impacts. We also ensure that all our sites are prepared and equipped to handle any emergency that could occur. A crisis management simulation is regularly performed for each site, which includes a simulated environmental incident to ensure the sites’ readiness to remediate and to communicate with internal and external parties. All-incident reporting is encouraged as a key factor in monitoring and management for continuous improvement through investigation, key learnings and resulting actions.

Performance in 2013

Minor and low consequence incidents have largely resulted from sediments, hydrocarbon and other chemical spills such as lime and minor tailing spills. Regrettably, in 2013 we recorded the first mortality of a protected species (rattlesnake) at Cerro San Pedro which was most likely due to site traffic.

In 2013, there were nine spills classified as “moderate” (at New Gold we classify all spills requiring regulatory reporting or of process solution leaving designated areas as “moderate”). At Mesquite, two spills of about 4m3 occurred when process solution containing cyanide escaped containment. At Cerro San Pedro, a spill of about 5m3 of solution containing cyanide occurred at the process plant. At New Afton, there were five small spills requiring regulatory reporting: 0.15m3 of diesel, 2m3 of lime, 0.82m3 of hydraulic oil, 0.5m3 of sewage treatment water and 3m3 of tailings. With all these events, the spills were contained on site, and the environmental agencies were promptly notified. Soil remediation was conducted immediately and successfully for each event, and measures put in place to prevent recurrence.

Another incident internally classified as “moderate” was recorded when cyanide was detected in a groundwater monitoring well adjacent to the heap leach pad at the Cerro San Pedro operating area. All regulatory disclosures to environmental authorities were timely provided. The referred well was part of the overall monitoring system within our facilities and no threat to the environment or to any areas off-site was identified. A thorough investigation was completed with a third party consultant and other expert advisors, and conclusions were that a discrete event had occurred and was detected in a timely manner. While any spill of cyanide solution is of concern, this on-site incident showed our site monitoring and containment system to be effective.

No significant fines or non-monetary sanctions for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations were issued to New Gold sites in 2013.

In September 2013 Peak Mines was convicted after pleading guilty in the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales of having polluted waters in breach of section 120(1) of the Australian Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Between November and December 21, 2011, mine tailings were discharged into a constructed clean water drain at Peak. The incident occurred while contractors carried out construction works at the site. As holder of an Environment Protection Licence and occupier of the mine site, Peak Mines was responsible for the incident. Peak Mines was ordered to pay $50,000 to the Cobar Shire Council to contribute to the expansion of council's effluent reuse project, and was ordered to pay the Environmental Protect Agency's legal costs.