A lot goes into gold mining, not the least of which are environmental and social concerns. Equinox Gold (EQX), a Canadian firm engaged in gold mining and exploration in Canada, U.S., Mexico, and Brazil, has committed to being as transparent as possible regarding its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance to all stakeholders.
In its 2021 ESG report, the rapidly growing gold miner outlines how it’s achieved targets from 2020. It also aims to provide more detailed data disclosure in future years. And it’s launched a separate ESG portal on its web and announced its first ESG-focused stakeholder call.
“We have expanded our ESG disclosure significantly this year, providing quantitative data on our health and safety and environmental performance, energy consumption, GHG emissions, and water usage,” said Christian Milau, CEO of Equinox Gold. “We have also reported on the community engagement and development initiatives underway at all of our operations and the values, principles, and governance frameworks that guide our actions.”
Equinox, founded in 2017, aims to “responsibly and safely produce more than one million ounces of gold per year while creating value for all stakeholders,” explained Maryse Bélanger, Equinox’s ESG committee chair, in the report.
On the social front, Equinox joined the United Nations Global Compact Target Gender Equality Program in 2021. The program runs for 12 months and helps the company define a long-term inclusion and diversity strategy.
Equinox’s employment practices focus on hiring its workers and providing education and training opportunities. Except for one mine, all its mines had more than 80% of direct employees locally sourced. All employees receive performance-based incentives based on individual and collective metrics. The company employs more than 7,000 people. Equinox is strongly committed to inclusion and diversity: “one of our key objectives during 2021 was to review our hiring practices to ensure our systems promote diversity and inclusion at all levels.”
This goes all the way from its board of directors to senior management at its corporate office and all its sites. Currently, its board counts two women out of nine directors. Equinox set a target to achieve at least a 30% representation of women on the board by the 2023 annual shareholder meeting.
Human rights also play an essential role in the mining industry. The company adopted a new Social Responsibility & Human Rights policy last year. In addition, it formalized its commitment to Indigenous and human rights in its Code of Conduct and Business Ethics and its Greenstone Gold Mine’s Indigenous Relations Policy.
“Equinox Gold acquired 60% of Greenstone in April 2021,” the company noted in its report. “We have met numerous times with leadership from all five Indigenous communities and have enjoyed learning about the histories of their communities, their cultures, and their traditional knowledge of the Greenstone area.”
By 2022, Equinox plans to conduct corporation-wide due diligence to identify and mitigate potential human rights risks. This includes guidelines, regular assessments, and training on ethics and expectations.
The Health and safety of its workers is another key goal. In 2021, the company reported no fatalities, reduced its lost-time injuries, and surpassed its health and safety targets. It expanded its incident reporting and “near miss” reviews.
When it comes to the environment, Equinox adopted a new Environment & Climate Change Policy and reported for the first time to the Carbon Disclosure Project. Its environmental incident frequency rate improved by 58% vs. the prior year, retaining the same target for 2022.
The company was able to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5% in 2021. It also added new data metrics to track long-term GHG reduction, define governance policies, assess risks, and improve reporting. In addition, it hired a third party to review the physical risks of climate change for all its sites for the next 30 years.
The parameters included drought, flood, wildfires, temperature extremes, and rising sea levels. The company received a low-risk assessment for nearly all the parameters, except for a higher risk of drought and wildfires at two sites in California and Mexico.
Finally, no ESG program can succeed without the proper level of responsibility and incentives. In 2022, 14% of the company’s objectives and CEO compensation were attached to ESG performance. Six percent of the incentive plans directly depended on health and safety, 3 percent on environmental performance, and five percent on reaching ESG targets.
“Our primary reporting objective is transparency, so all stakeholders have a clear understanding of our targets, our performance, and our efforts for continual improvement,” added Milau.