The Cyanide Code is a voluntary industry program designed to assist the global gold and silver mining industry and the producers and transporters of cyanide used in gold and silver mining in improving cyanide management practices. The Cyanide Code is intended to reduce the potential exposure of workers and communities to harmful concentrations of cyanide‚ to limit releases of cyanide to the environment‚ and to enhance response actions in the event of an exposure or release.
The Cyanide Code was developed to improve the management of cyanide at gold mines and during the production and transport of the cyanide used at gold mines. Spills and other incidents involving cyanide solutions at gold mines — such as the January 2000 incident at a Romanian gold mine — demonstrated to the gold mining industry‚ governments and the public that better management of cyanide was needed‚ particularly at operations with limited experience or in countries lacking adequate regulatory programs. The program was expanded in 2017 to include cyanide use at silver mines and the producers and transporters of this cyanide.
3. Why is cyanide used in gold and silver mining? What is the mining industry doing to find alternatives to cyanide?
Cyanide effectively and efficiently extracts gold and silver from ore. While a number of other chemicals are available to extract gold and silver‚ such as chloride bromide‚ thiourea‚ and thiosulfate‚ these form less stable complexes with gold and silver and thus require more aggressive conditions and oxidants to dissolve the metals. The alternative chemicals are generally more expensive to use and present risks to health and the environment that are similar to or greater than those presented by cyanide. The industry continues to search for cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives to cyanide. See Cyanide Facts for more information.
Adoption and implementation of the Cyanide Code are voluntary, but a substantial number of the world’s gold producers are implementing the program’s requirements at their mine sites Today, over 100 industrial mines are certified in compliance with the Cyanide Code, and collectively those operations account for more than half of the world’s gold produced by commercial industrial primary gold mines.
Companies agree to the adoption of the Cyanide Code by becoming Signatories and committing to bring their designated gold and/or silver mining operations into compliance with the Cyanide Code within three years. The names of Signatory Companies and their operations are identified in the Signatory Directory on the Cyanide Code website to allow the public to track their progress towards certification. Each certified operation is identified and its Summary Audit Report‚ Auditor Credentials Form and, if applicable‚ Corrective Action Plan‚ are available on the company’s signatory page. The audit process is repeated at a minimum of every three years.
The company’s operations are audited by an independent third-party auditor meeting the Cyanide Code’s criteria and using its Verification Protocol. The auditor will determine if the operation meets the Cyanide Code’s Principles and Standards of Practice (or for cyanide producers or transporters, the Production or Transport Practices, respectively) and should be certified as being in compliance with the Cyanide Code. Operations found in full compliance with the Cyanide Code are certified and a Summary Audit Report and Auditor Credentials Form are posted on the ICMI web site. Operations found in substantial but not full compliance with the Cyanide Code are conditionally certified and must develop and implement a Corrective Action Plan to achieve full compliance. A Summary Audit Report‚ Auditor Credentials Form and the Corrective Action Plan are posted on the ICMI web site. The operation becomes fully certified once the implementation of the Corrective Action Plan is confirmed by the auditor.
7. Must a company that is signatory to the Cyanide Code have all its gold and silver mining operations certified as in compliance with the Cyanide Code?
Companies with multiple operations can select those they wish to certify as in compliance with the Cyanide Code. This allows a company to seek certification of most of its operations even if one or more cannot be brought into compliance. The Cyanide Code web site lists all of a signatory company’s operations and indicates which it intends on certifying.
Companies that become Cyanide Code signatories commit to periodic independent third-party audits to determine whether their operations can be certified as in compliance with the Cyanide Code’s Principles and Standards of Practice (or Production or Transport Practices, as applicable). Audits are conducted using Verification Protocols developed by the International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) by auditors meeting ICMI criteria. Copies of the Audit Protocols and Auditor Criteria are available elsewhere on this site. Summaries of the operation’s audit results also are posted on the website. Audits are conducted for initial certification and at three-year intervals thereafter and include a site inspection and a review of applicable documents and records.
Once audits have been conducted‚ summaries of the audit results are made available for public review on each signatory company’s page on this website. The credentials of the auditor(s) that conducted the independent audit are also made available on the website. The Cyanide Code’s transparency is one of its distinguishing features.
As a voluntary program‚ ICMI cannot impose penalties. However‚ an operation that is not in compliance with the Cyanide Code’s Principles and Standards of Practice cannot be certified. Further‚ non-compliance at an already certified site results in its de-certification‚ and a notice regarding de-certification of the operation would be posted on this website.
11. Why is the Cyanide Code limited to gold and silver mining even though cyanide is used in other industries?
The Cyanide Code was developed by an international multi-stakeholder group, under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, to develop a focused program on the use and management of cyanide in gold mining. This was done to address concerns about the gold industry’s performance in managing the chemical’s use. The program was expanded in 2017 to include cyanide use at silver mines.
The Cyanide Code addresses cyanide’s use cycle in the mining sector. This includes the production of cyanide; its transport from the producer to the mine; its on-site storage and use in the recovery of gold and silver; decommissioning of cyanide facilities; financial assurance; accident prevention; worker health and safety; emergency response and training; community dialogue; public reporting; and stakeholder involvement.
The International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) administers the Cyanide Code. It is a non-profit corporation with an independent Board of Directors. ICMI’s prime responsibilities are to:
- encourage companies to adopt the Cyanide Code and bring their operations into compliance with its Principles and Standards of Practice;
- promote the Cyanide Code within the gold and silver mining industries and with other stakeholders;
- work with governments‚ NGOs‚ financial interests and others to foster widespread adoption and support of the Cyanide Code; and
- periodically review the Cyanide Code and revise it as necessary to improve implementation and incorporate new advances in cyanide management
ICMI’s activities are funded primarily through annual fees paid by signatory companies. A schedule of fees is found elsewhere on this site. ICMI also obtains funding from conducting training workshops on Cyanide Code implementation and auditing.
CodeCasts is a series of short (10 to 15 minute) podcasts developed to explore and explain specific topics within the Cyanide Code and its expectations. CodeCasts are designed to supplement other forms of training that ICMI offers.Click here to explore more