Responsible approach to the natural environment

The respect and responsible approach of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. to the natural environment are the key elements of our business strategy and the Corporate Social Responsibility strategy (CSR).We take actions to mitigate our environmental impact, and minimizing the adverse effects of our operations on the natural environment is our priority.

Environmental policy

Taking care of the natural environment is part of our business model, in which we apply standards that ensure safeguards which guarantee that the environmental issues will be considered across all segments, from exploration through rehabilitation.

The main assumptions of the KGHM environmental policy:
  • Maintaining full technical efficiency of the equipment used for environmental protection;
  • Tracking technical innovations to reduce the negative impact of the industry on the environment and putting them to use according to needs and opportunities;
  • Developing waste management techniques and steady growth in the proportion of waste managed using these techniques;
  • Ongoing collaboration concerning the environment with the community and local authorities;
  • Collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment on implementing the national environmental policy;
  • Collaborating on the development of a Best Available Techniques (BAT) document for the non-ferrous metals industry;
  • Collaborating with the European mining industry and non-ferrous metals industry within the framework of professional organizations on preparing documents concerning the protection of the environment at EU level.

Impact on the individual components of the natural environment is inherent to copper ore mining and subsequent processing at all stages of production. In order to comply with strict standards imposed by the law, we must modernize existing installations regularly and build new ones that will reduce our impact on the environment.

In 2016, we commenced works at our branches, such as Legnica, Głogów and Cedynia Copper Smelters (HM), the Smelting Plant (ZH) and the Ore Processing Plant (ZWR) aimed at adapting the existing systems to the requirements of the new standards, including the ISO 14001:2015 environmental management standard.

GRI Indexes:

In 2016, the Company spent PLN 1,017M on pro-ecological investments. The biggest amount was spent on the Pyrometallurgy Modernization Program at the Głogów I Smelter/Refinery.


In accordance with the sustainable development agreement concluded in 2013 between the Głogów district authorities and the Management Board of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., a soil liming project was carried out in 2016 in the rural Głogów commune. By resolution of the Management Board, KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. donated funds to the rural Głogów commune for liming soil used for agricultural purposes on an area of 786 ha.

The KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. Health Promotion and Prevention of Environmental Threats Program

The aim of the program is to provide preventive care to the Copper Basin residents, in particular children and adolescents, by performing tasks such as:

  • trips to “green schools” located in mountain or seaside resorts
  • swimming classes at the swimming pool throughout the year
  • blood testing for lead content
  • environmental health education

The decrease in the number of complaints addressed to us is one proof of the effectiveness of our pro-ecological initiatives and the reduced adverse impact of our operations. For more details, please see the table.

GRI Indexes:

Number of complaints associated with the environmental impact of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.

Total number of complaints associated with environmental impact reported in the reporting period in the formal complaint process
Number of reported cases that were resolved
Mining damage reported by residents
Unpleasant odors caused by emissions from the SG-2 shaft at the Polkowice-Sieroszowice plant
Noise emissions associated with the operation of the SW-3 shaft at the Polkowice-Sieroszowice plant

Source: KGHM

BAT regulation

At KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., we operate 10 facilities at which an integrated permit to operate is required in accordance with the Environmental Protection Law. Due to the entry into force of the Commission Implementing Decision 2016/1032 establishing BAT conclusions for the non-ferrous metals industries, we reviewed our integrated permits for compliance with the applicable laws.

The KGHM smelting facilities are improved continuously. For example, we must invest in projects aimed at reducing the emissions of harmful substances to the atmosphere. Our consistent investment in systems containing or filtering harmful substances provided outstanding results. In the 1980s, gases from a shaft furnace were directed to an 80-metre chimney through a dry gas cleaning plant, and 14-16k t of dust a year were emitted to the atmosphere, whereas today the emission is in the range of 5-6t a year.

In 2016, a newly built process line of the fluidized-bed furnace was put into operation at HM Głogów I as part of the comprehensive Pyrometallurgy Modernization Program. The main modifications and improvements made as part of this project consisted of changing the concentrate smelting technology in the shaft furnaces to modern fluidized-bed furnace technology, which guarantees efficient energy use in primary copper production in accordance with BAT conclusions. The fluidized-bed furnace also reduces dispersed emissions from the Bessemer process.

The Głogów smelter, which is one of the most modern smelters in the European Union, meets both Polish and European environmental protection standards, which is confirmed by the relevant decisions and permits. A forest with an area of approx. 911 ha was planted in the area of the former protection zone. Moreover, an ecological site with an area of approx. 605 ha (Łęgi Głogowskie) was created as habitat for a number of rare plant and animal species.

In 2016, KGHM Metraco obtained a patent for a method for recycling waste from Zn-C and Zn-Mn batteries remaining after the separation of ferromagnetic fraction. In addition to useful components, used batteries contain many substances that are harmful to the environment, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, graphite or silicon dioxide polluted with electrolytes, or plastics. To date, no Polish company has had a complete technology in place for the treatment of used batteries.

Water in the copper production process

Water is an important component of the copper production process. It is used in the process of ore flotation, hydrotransport of waste and in the process line in smelters. The largest amounts of water are used in the flotation process. Total water consumption by the Polish KGHM companies alone exceeds 20M m3.

KGHM makes every effort not to preserve the quality of local water resources by its operations.

In Poland, water from mine drainage is used mainly in the flotation process. It circulates in a closed circuit between the Ore Processing Plant and the Żelazny Most Extraction Waste Neutralization Facility. At the same time, we perform technologically advanced waste water treatment at each of our plants. We do not let water from the production process mix with surface waters or pollute the groundwater.

Every minute we pump 60 m3 of water from our mines to the surface. Due to innovation, we reduced the energy consumption of the industrial water pumping process by 35% over 6 years.

Total water withdrawal by source

Water inflow from rock mass in m3/year
Total amount of pumped out water in m3/year
ZG Rudna branch
ZG Lubin branch
ZG Polkowice-Sieroszowice branch

Source: KGHM

The Żelazny Most Extraction Waste Neutralization Facility (OUOW) is the only place for storing waste from copper ore flotation from all KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.’s mines. It is one of the best-monitored (also with respect to environmental protection) facilities of this type in the world, which is manifested, among other things, by a geodetic observation network consisting of as many as 500 points, which is used to study malformations of the reservoir top and foreground.

Excess water from the Żelazny Most reservoir is discharged from time to time to the Oder using the hydrotechnical method. The process was been developed and implemented in cooperation with scientific institutions and in compliance with Water Law requirements. Research shows that discharge of mine water to the Oder does not affect the proper functioning of the water ecosystems.

Water in technological processes at KGHM

1. We obtain

We use water from mine drainage systems, potable water intakes and rain water for technological purposes


Water obtained from mine drainage is used in technological process, in particular:

- for hydraulic filling purposes;
- for rinsing drilling equipment;
- in fire protection pipeline systems.

 Energetyka sp. z o.o.

The company manages water for drinking and other general purposes at KGHM S.A. branches. This includes:

- managing water intakes;
- managing waste water disposal.

2. We use

Water is used in many technological processes, the most important of which is ore enrichment.

   Ore enrichment plants 

Ore Enrichment Plants use water in the ore enrichment process. This process involves:

- grinding and classifying muck;
- flotation;
- dehydration of concentrate (thickening, filtering and drying)

Subsequently, the concentrate is shipped to smelters, and flotation tailings are stored at the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility.

 Hydrotechnical plant

The Plant is responsible for:
- environmental management;
- technological water management;
- waste water and sludge management;
- discharging excess water to the Oder river.

 Cuprum Sp. z o.o. CBR

This company monitors ground water and surface water for KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.

   CBJ Sp. z o.o. 

Water quality and content are controlled at all stages of the process. The Quality Assessment Centre (CBJ) is responsible for this.

Environmental fees

Total fees for the use of the environment paid by KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. in 2016 amounted to PLN 24M. The fees paid were more than PLN 7M lower than in 2015. This was due to the implementation of a system for monitoring the load of chlorides and sulfates at the mines in 2016, which makes it possible to calculate the fee for discharge of surface waters from the Żelazny Most Extraction Waste Neutralization Facility (OUOW) reduced by the chloride and sulfate loads pumped from the mines.

In 2016, the highest fees were paid for pollution loads discharged in surface waters from the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility: PLN 14M. The second largest fee was the fee for emissions into the atmosphere of PLN 6M.

Among the subsidiaries, the operations of “Energetyka” Sp. z o.o. had the greatest impact on the environment. Therefore, in 2016 this Company paid the highest environmental fees, which amounted to nearly PLN 3M and comprised mainly the fees for water intake and waste water disposal (more than PLN 2M) and for emissions into the air (PLN 0.7M). In an effort to ensure sustainable development, in 2016 the Company completed the modernization of the stocker-fired boiler no. 1 in the E1-Lubin heat and power plant in the tight wall technology. As a result, the facility’s thermal power and efficiency were improved and, additionally, the efficiency of dust removal systems was increased to 20 mg/m3.

GRI Indexes:

The total amount of environmental penalties imposed on the Polish KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. companies in 2016 was lower than in the previous year. In 2016 they amounted to PLN 202,858 compared to PLN 333,851 in 2015.

GRI Indexes:

A stage of the Environmental Assessment process took place at Ajax in 2016. In January 2016, the process of evaluating  Environmental Assessment began. Works  will be completed in the second half of 2017.

Economy in closed circulation

Recycling of copper at KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. improves the efficiency of our operations by reducing energy consumption, emissions and the amount of waste. In addition, due to the scale of our production, we understand the need to minimize waste and use secondary sources of input in our operations.

As a result of the processing of 34M ton of muck a year we produce approx. 2M ton of copper concentrates, and the post-flotation waste (which represents approx. 94% of the muck by weight) is used for building the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility. Thick fraction waste (with high silicon dioxide content) is used to build the reservoir dam. Fine-grained post-flotation waste fractions (containing mainly carbonates) are used inside the facility to seal its bottom. In addition to being used for storage of waste, the Żelazny Most Tailings Storage Facility is also used as a water storage reservoir for the purposes of technological water circulation at KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. Smelting processes produce slag (more than 1M ton a year), a big part of which is used as road-building material. Copper obtained from copper scrap processed in smelting facilities today represents more than 20% of output.

CO2 emissions

Since 2013, KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. has participated in the obligatory European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Accordingly, the Głogów Smelter, the Legnica Smelter and the gas-steam blocks in Polkowice and Głogów have permits to participate in CO2 emissions trading. Supervising the CO2 emissions trading system is one of the most important environmental protection projects planned for the immediate future.

In 2016, the previous year’s emissions amounting to 637k tonnes of CO2 were settled by rights acquired free of charge (550k ton of CO2) supplemented with purchases of rights (EUAs or European Emission Allowances and CERs – certified emission reduction). The 2016 CO2 emissions amounting to 767 k ton were settled with rights acquired free of charge for the Głogów and Legnica Smelters, the additional rights obtained for the Polkowice gas-steam block for the years 2015 and 2016 (in total, 597 kt of CO2) and purchased rights (EUA and CER).

Replacement of the shaft furnace at the Głogów I Smelter with a fluidized-bed furnace reduced the total direct emission (including export of gases). Further effects of this replacement should be noticed in 2017.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, we published a document entitled “The Energy Policy of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.” We assume that the implementation of the Energy Management System will bring us measurable financial gains resulting, among other things, from reduced CO2 emissions.

GRI Indexes:

Direct emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions [tCO2e]
Emissions associated with generation of electricity
Emissions associated with heat generation
Emissions from physical and chemical processing
Emissions of hydro fluorocarbons (HFC)
Emissions associated with transport of materials, products and waste
Biogenic emissions of carbon dioxide in metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent
Sum of direct emissions

Indirect emissions by origin
Greenhouse gas emissions [tCO2e]
Emissions that result from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the organization
Emissions that result from the generation of purchased heating consumed by the organization
Sum of indirect emissions

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity
(Dividend) Total GHG emissions (in tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
2GHG emissions intensity ratio

Source: KGHM

Analysis of the organization’s environmental footprint

Environmental footprint is the overall potential effect or selected potential effects of a product, service or organization on the environment. Environmental footprint is determined for the individual or all product life cycle stages.

The European Commission is implementing the methodology for assessing the environmental footprint into the new strategies and programs, such as “Zero waste for Europe”. The program emphasizes that in order to achieve sustainable development it is essential to move towards a more circular economy, which takes into account the effect of the whole life cycle of a product on the environment. KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., as a member of the Technical Secretariat, helps formulate detailed guidelines for the copper industry organizations willing to assess their environmental footprint.

Therefore, in 2016 KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. was among the three industry representatives participating in the pilot stage of development of detailed guidelines for the life cycle assessment (LCA) for the copper industry. It also performed its own environmental footprint assessment.

With respect to the environmental footprint, in 2016:

- We completed the 1st stage of the analysis of the environmental footprint of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. – smelting processes;

- We completed the 2nd stage of the analysis of the environmental footprint of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. – mining processes and waste storage;

- We received independent remarks and comments on the draft detailed guidelines associated with the analyses performed.

Environmental protection in foreign mines of the KGHM Group

Update of KGHM INTERNATIONAL LTD.’s environmental policy

In 2016, we made changes to the environmental policy of KGHM INTERNATIONAL LTD. to increase our focus on biodiversity conservation and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions management.

In its Environmental Policy adopted in 2016, the Company, in line with its Zero Harm policy, declared that it will use natural resource management tools and practices in order to minimize the risk to the environment at all stages of the mining project, from exploration and identification of deposits through extraction to closing of the existing mines. KGHM INTERNATIONAL LTD. has guaranteed operations based on accepted industry standards and involvement of employees, contractors, local communities and regulators in pro-environmental activities.

GRI Indexes:

In 2016, as in 2015, no sanctions for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations were imposed on the foreign KGHM Group companies.

Water in the KGHM INTERNATIONAL LTD. mines

Some of the KGHM mines are located in areas where water is a particularly valuable resource, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is one of the driest spots on Earth, or a semidesert in Arizona, USA, where the annual rainfall is less than 25 cm.

In such places, our Company’s role is not limited to treating the existing natural water resources with utmost care and preventing the risk of their depletion. In the case of the Sierra Gorda S.C.M., we decided to apply an innovative technical solution to protect the environment. In its process line the mine uses sea water from the cooling systems of a power plant, which is located near the town of Mejillones. Previously water was discharged back to the ocean, whereas now it is pumped through an approx. 144 km long pipeline and stored in a salt water storage reservoir, which is located near the Sierra Gorda processing facility.

Water for the other Chilean mine, Franke, is supplied from a third party via an approx. 70 km long pipeline. At the same time, the Company monitors the natural sources of water identified in these areas to check the level is not decreasing and that there is no sign of pollution.

Depending on the plant’s location and related possibilities, rainwater is directed to storm drains in the nearby towns and we support the modernization projects of such systems.

Kopalnia Carlota w USA prowadzi natomiast działalność przy całkowitym braku zrzutu wody wykorzystywanej w procesie produkcji ługowania rudy tlenkowej, co ma pozytywne przełożenie na aspekty środowiskowe.

The Carlota mine in the USA, and Franke and Sierra Gorda in Chile operate without discharging any water.

At the plants where the resources are particularly limited and wherever possible, we use recycling – we try to use water from our waste water treatment facilities or from mine drainage for the purposes of our technological processes.

GRI Indexes:

Total water withdrawal by source (m3)

Total water withdrawal by source (m3)
Surface water
Ground water
Municipal water supplies or other water utilities
Sea water

Source: KGHM

Air protection and emissions to the environment

At the KGHM International Ltd. surface mines a particularly important environmental issue is dust. The mines have systems in place for controlling dust originating from mine mobile equipement or from ore extraction and processing. The Company continuously implements rigorous measures to avoid dust emissions by utlilizing mitigation measures such as road watering, operating procedures, and the use dust suppression systems. Sierra Gorda mine continuously monitors the air quality. It is the only monitoring station from all the companies operating in the area that is part of the National System of Air Quality Information.

GRI Indexes:

NOx, SOx, and other significant air emissions

NOx, SOx, and other significant air emissions
The amount of significant air emissions (in tonnes)
Dust (PM)

Source: KGHM

The most important environmental issues in 2016

Sierra Gorda

In March 2016, the Chilean Environmental Protection Agency published a report indicating possible cases of Sierra Gorda’s non-compliance with the environmental permit. Seven major and two minor violations were reported.

In April 2016, Sierra Gorda presented a plan for adjusting its operations to the regulator’s requirements. In the 2nd half of 2016, the SMA approved the corrective plan presented by Sierra Gorda S.C.M. After its implementation, the claims brought by the Environmental Protection Agency will be withdrawn without any sanctions. By the end of 2016, Sierra Gorda had completed all the corrective actions proposed in accordance with the schedule.

Furthermore, Sierra Gorda worked on the development of a new environmental impact study and continued work on the verification and optimization of the technical and business assumptions of the Sierra Gorda Oxide project (oxide ore processing).

The funds spent on the financing of the Sierra Gorda Oxide project amounted to USD $ 4M, which is more than 70% less than in 2015 (US $ 16.8M).

The Franke mine

In December 2016, the Franke mine filed a draft environmental impact assessment with the Environmental Assessment Agency. It presents the possibility of extending the period of deposit exploitation by 4.5 years while the production level would remain unchanged.

Moreover, dust control, waste management and environmental impact monitoring activities were carried out at the Franke mine in Chile. The total expenditure on such purposes amounted to approx. PLN 3M. The expenditure on the other operations amounted to approx. PLN 0.8M.

The Robinson mine

Environmental protection activities at the Robinson mine in the USA were aimed at monitoring air and water quality, waste management and the restoration of mining areas. The total expenditure on such purposes was approx. PLN 23M, including PLN 2.5M spent in connection with the environmental permits held (of which emission fees amounted to PLN 0.04M).

In connection with the three-year development plan for the Robinson mine for the years 2016–2018 and its planned area of impact which includes public land, the American Bureau of Land Management required the presentation of an environmental impact assessment. With the support of the authorities, the local community and many of the Company’s stakeholders, we obtained a positive opinion on the anticipated environmental impact. In 2016, the plant installed a system as part of a corrective action plan, in coordination with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, for the remediation of the sulfates present in the groundwater.

In November 2016, a significant (more than 20 m3) spill from the tailings pipeline occurred at the Robinson mine. The impacted area has since been remediated.

GRI Indexes:

Number of significant spills at the Robinson mine

Number of significant spills
Volume in m3

Source: KGHM

The Carlota mine

The environmental activities conducted at the Carlota mine, USA, were mainly associated with resloping areas of the mine fro reclamation purposes and monitoring the environment. The total expenditure on such purposes was approx. PLN 11M.

The Ajax mine

The Ajax Project located in British Columbia (Canada) is aimed at constructing a copper and gold surface mine and an ore processing plant together with the associated infrastructure. In January 2016, an Updated Feasibility Study was published, replacing the previous version. The document reflects changes to the project, under which the mine’s infrastructure was moved farther away from the nearest buildings in the town of Kamloops, and technological improvements to the project. The mine’s activities in 2016 were focused, among other things, on obtaining an environmental permits.

The Morrison mine in Sudbury

In 2016, we developed a biodiversity protection plan for the Morrison mine. It complies with the requirements of the Group’s environmental strategy and the framework developed by the Mining Association of Canada. Our plan includes the protection of biodiversity and its management at all stages of a mining project’s life cycle. It defines appropriate practices and procedures for avoiding or mitigating potential impact on or threats to biodiversity.