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International Cyanide Management Code

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International Cyanide Management Code

International Cyanide Management Code
Full Name International Cyanide Management Code For The Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide In The Production of Gold
Established 2002
Number of Signatories 150 (as of January 1, 2014)
Number of Certified Operations 210
Number of Countries where Cyanide Code is Being Implemented 49
Headquarters Washington, DC

The International Cyanide Management Code For The Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide In The Production of Gold, commonly referred to as the Cyanide Code is a voluntary program designed to assist the global gold mining industry and the producers and transporters of cyanide used in gold mining in improving cyanide management practices, and to publicly demonstrate their compliance with the Cyanide Code through an independent and transparent process. 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.


Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Mineral Policy Center (now Earthworks), the Sierra Club, and the World Gold Council, along with representation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the governments of Australia, France, Hungary, Romania, and the world’s leading gold producers and cyanide producers.[4]

As a result of the workshop, a multi-stakeholder steering committee was established to oversee development of a code of best practice for the management of cyanide used for gold recovery. The committee met five times over a 13-month period starting in late 2000, and each successive draft of the best practice document it produced was made available to the public on the UNEP web site with an open invitation for comments. The committee also solicited comments directly from 140 groups and individuals, including governments, NGOs, academics, consultants, industry, and financial institutions, and received 68 written responses and 15 stakeholder presentations at its meetings. In early 2002, the committee completed the International Cyanide Management Code for The Manufacture, Transport and Use of Cyanide In The Production of Gold.

As conceived by the steering committee, the Cyanide Code was more than a guide to best management practices for the use of cyanide in the production of gold. The Cyanide Code also addressed the safe manufacture and transport of the cyanide used in the gold industry. Further, although the program is voluntary, the Cyanide Code includes a process by which its implementation at gold mines and other facilities is verified by independent third-party professional auditors and audit results are made available to the public. The International Cyanide Management Institute (ICMI) was established in 2003 to oversee the Cyanide Code’s implementation and verification, and by 2005, the administrative procedures, audit protocols and guidance documents necessary for full program implementation had been developed.

Signatories and certification

The Cyanide Code is a resource for any gold mine, cyanide producer or cyanide transporter regarding best practices for cyanide management. A company that becomes a signatory to the Cyanide Code commits to implement its Principles and Standards of Practice at its operations and to demonstrate compliance by having their facilities audited against the Cyanide Code’s Verification Protocols.

The first 14 Cyanide Code signatory companies were announced in November 2005. Over the past eight years, the number of companies participating in the program has substantially increased. As of January 1, 2014, the Cyanide Code had 150 signatory companies, with operations in 49 countries. These include 36 gold mining companies, 16 cyanide producers, and 98 cyanide transporters[5]

Gold mines, cyanide production facilities, and cyanide transport operations owned by Cyanide Code signatory companies are certified through a transparent process[6] using independent third-party professional auditors and technical experts meeting requirements established by ICMI for experience and expertise. The initial audit must be conducted within three years of the facility’s owner becoming a signatory, and audits to evaluate continuing compliance are conducted on a three-year interval. Operations are certified in compliance with the Cyanide Code based on the auditors’ findings, and a summary of the audit results, as well as the credentials of the auditors, are made available to the public on the Cyanide Code web site.

The Cyanide Code is being widely implemented in the gold mining sector.[7] As of January 1, 2014, 210 operations had been certified in compliance with the Cyanide Code, including 97 gold mines, 21 cyanide production facilities and 92 cyanide transporters. Ninety-three of these had been audited a second time and been found to have maintained compliance over the first three-year audit cycle, while 13 have been audited a third time and been found to have maintained compliance over the previous two audit cycles..[8]

Stakeholder perspectives

The Cyanide Code has been recognized by the Group of Eight (“G8”) as one of several certification systems that are suitable instruments for “increasing transparency and good governance in the extraction and processing of mineral raw materials.” The G8 is an international forum for the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Article 85 of the G8’s Summit Declaration, issued during its 2007 annual meeting, states the following:

“Certification systems can be a suitable instrument in appropriate cases for increasing transparency and good governance in the extraction and processing of mineral raw materials and to reduce environmental impacts, support the compliance with minimum social standards and resolutely counter illegal resource extraction. Therefore, we reaffirm our support for existing initiatives such as … the International Cyanide Management Code, and encourage the adaptation of the respective principles of corporate social responsibility by those involved in the extraction and processing of mineral resources,”[9]

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank that provides funding for mining projects, applies the Cyanide Code in lieu of its own requirements in its Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Guidelines for Mining. As a condition of its loans, IFC EHS Guidelines call on mines to use cyanide in a manner “consistent with the principles and standards of practice of the International Cyanide Management Code.”[10] The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development requires Cyanide Code compliance in their loan agreements to gold mines[11] or otherwise encourage projects they fund that use cyanide to comply with the Cyanide Code.

Environment Canada’s “Environmental Code of Practice for Metal Mines” cites the Cyanide Code as the guide for the environmentally responsible management of cyanide used in the production of both gold and base metals, and recommends that cyanide management planning and the transportation, storage, use and disposal of cyanide and cyanide-related materials be done “in a manner consistent with practices described in the International Cyanide Management Code.”[12]

The Australian National Industrial Chemicals’ Notification and Assessment Scheme’s 2010 evaluation of the risks posed by sodium cyanide characterizes the Cyanide Code as “an excellent initiative to lift international standards and demonstrate the environmental commitment of an operator.”[13]

According to Benchmark Study of Environmental and Social Standards in Industrialised Precious Metals Mining[14] produced by Solidaridad,[15] an international network organization with more than 20 years of experience in creating fair and sustainable supply chains from producer to consumer the Cyanide Code offers “a good level of transparency as all of the Code’s implementing documents are available to the public on the ICMI website.” The Study also noted the Cyanide Code offers “rigorous and transparent verification of compliance, that there is “respect for the Code by operational staff and excellent emergency procedures.”

In a May 2013 report titled "More Substance Than Shine", several NGOs including Earthworks, MiningWatch Canada, and United Steelworkers noted that the International Cyanide Management Code is an example of a certification or monitoring system that provides audit information to the public. "For example, the following documents are available online: Auditor summary reports; Auditor Credential forms; Corrective Action Completion forms showing that those that did not obtain full compliance carried out the corrective actions necessary to obtain certification. Auditor summary reports also provide the basis for the findings or deficiencies identified during the audit." [16]

The Mining Certification Evaluation Project's final report concluded that "third party certification schemes offer a credible means with which to assess and verify performance against agreed standards", and noted that "the Cyanide Code is a prominent example of an existing third-party certification scheme for the mining industry."[17]

Australian regulators have credited reductions by the Australian gold mining industry in the incidence of environmental impacts, regulatory non-compliance and community resistance by complying with the Cyanide Code.[18] It has been observed that globally there have been no major environmental incidents at a gold mining operation certified as compliant with the Cyanide Code.[19]

The Responsible Jewellry Council, an international standards setting and certification organization for the jewelry supply chain, requires its gold mining members to have applicable sites certified in compliance to the Cyanide Code.[20]

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is developing a system of best practice standards aimed at improving mining operations' social and environmental performance, with a goal of certifying mine sites in 2015. In developing its system, IRMA is building on the work of other initiatives including the Cyanide Code.[21]

The Cyanide Code also has been endorsed by the Chief Inspector of Mines in South Africa.[22]

The United National Environment Programme (UNEP) has described ICMI as a partner in its efforts to promote emergency preparedness. In UNEP's 2012 publication "Commemorating 25 Years of Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL)," it stated that the Cyanide Code is "consistent with the APELL framework and its ten-step process." [23]


  1. ^ Mudder, T.I.; Botz, M.M.; Smith, A.S. (June 2011). Chemistry and Treatment of Cyanidation Wastes. Second Edition. Mining Journal Books, Ltd. 
  2. ^ "The Cyanide Spill at Baia Mare, Romania: Before, During and After". 
  3. ^  
  4. ^ "A Workshop on Industry Codes of Practice: Cyanide Management". Ecole des Mines, Paris, France. May 25–26, 2000. 
  5. ^ "Signatory Companies". 
  6. ^ "Certification Process". 
  7. ^ Water management in mining: a selection of case studies
  8. ^ "Certification Map". 
  9. ^ "Growth and Responsibility in the World Economy". 
  10. ^ "IFC: Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines for Mining". 
  11. ^ "Strategy For The Russian Federation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development". July 2006. 
  12. ^ "Environment Canada: Environmental Code of Practice for Metal Mines". 
  13. ^ "Australian Government: Priority Existing Chemical Assessment Report No. 31". 
  14. ^ "Solidaridad Network: Benchmark Study of Environmental and Social Standards Gold Mining". 
  15. ^ "Solidaridad Network: About Us". 
  16. ^ "More Shine Than Substance". 
  17. ^ "Mining Certification Evaluation Project (MCEP) Final Report". 
  18. ^ "Cyanide Management". Page 5. 
  19. ^ "Cyanide, science and society". 
  20. ^ "Code of Practices". Page 22. 
  21. ^ "The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)". 
  22. ^ Koechlin, Lucy and Calland, Richard. "Standard Setting At the Cutting Edge". 
  23. ^ "Commemorating 25 Years of Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL)". Page 26. 

External links

  • International Cyanide Management Code
  • Earthworks
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