Water is a precious resource, and the right to clean drinking water is one of the salient human rights risks associated with our business activities. However, in many parts of the world, water supplies and fresh water resources are under pressure due to expanding populations and climate change. Growing concern over the mining industry’s water performance; competing water uses in regional watersheds; environmental risks to water sources; water scarcity in some regions and water surplus in others; and increasing financial exposure during mine closure demonstrate the complexity of our water risks and the economic and social imperative for water stewardship.
Our commitment to create a positive water stewardship legacy in our host communities is stated in our Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Policy. Guiding our approach to fulfilling this commitment is our Water Management Standard, which sets the minimum requirements to proactively plan, manage and monitor our risks and performance throughout the mine lifecycle to protect human health, the environment and water resources.
Our global water strategy is an integrated approach to proactively manage and mitigate water risks by fully understanding the watersheds where we operate; participate in addressing watershed challenges for communities, other water users and the operation during all stages of the mine lifecycle; and transparently report on our performance. The strategy also more clearly links technical and scientific water management practices with our long-term strategic and social responsibility objectives, including protecting human rights.
Each of our operating sites – and each community in which we operate – has different water needs and challenges depending on the supply, demand and water quality within the watershed. Because water risks and impacts vary, each site assesses and manages its specific water risks. Along with defining teams and accountabilities, site water management charters map out a strategic plan to continually improve water management at all our sites.
Through Water Accounting Frameworks (WAF) each site defines, measures and reports water use by inputs, outputs, diversions and water quality.
Advancements in water recycling and recirculation techniques and technologies have also helped optimize the efficient use of this resource.
Much of the water that makes contact with our operations is recycled or reused at our sites to minimize overall fresh water use. Water treatment technologies employed at a number of our sites also provide a solution for removing unwanted constituents and safely discharging water back into local basins.
As managers of large volumes of water, our operations use saline or non-potable water and reduce fresh water consumption in ore processing by recycling and reusing water on site to the greatest extent possible.
Many of our operations – Boddington, KCGM and Tanami in Australia; Carlin, Twin Creeks, Phoenix and Lone Tree in Nevada; and Ahafo and Akyem in Ghana – currently are considered zero process discharge facilities because they recycle process water to minimize the use of fresh water to the greatest extent practicable.
For our operations that discharge water – which tend to be those located in areas that experience high precipitation – the water is treated, if necessary, to meet the applicable water quality standards and regulatory and permitting requirements, before being safely discharged back into the environment. As part of our water strategy, sites identify opportunities to work with stakeholders on timing and uses of the discharged water.
In addition to our annual sustainability report, we disclose our water management performance in the CDP’s annual Global Water Report. The detailed CDP water performance is expected to be made publicly available beginning in 2016. Water consumption and/or groundwater extraction is reported in most jurisdictions to governments and fee assessors. In addition, we routinely report on water quality and total discharges from sites.
Along with implementing regional water strategies and site management charters, all sites met our global external target to create and fully implement a Water Accounting Framework (WAF) by the end of 2015 and report their performance against their specific water strategy action plans.
Total water use (consumed and recycled) slightly decreased in 2015 due to the divestiture of the Waihi operation in New Zealand. With the implementation of our new water accounting, total water consumption increased because our reporting now includes water used in the tailings disposal process that cannot be recovered via recycling. As a result, the amount of recycled or reused water used across our operations declined to 59 percent of our total water use compared to 61 percent reported a year ago. However, we believe our new accounting establishes a more accurate baseline from which to measure our water use.
- Water recycled
- Water consumed Percent recycled
|Year||Total water consumed
(withdrawn minus direct and total discharges)
|Total water recycled|
Because our total water consumption can vary due to factors such as new mines and divested assets, we report on our water intensity. We calculate water intensity as the amount of water needed per tonne mined, and we believe this is a meaningful metric to track how we manage this resource. In 2015, water intensity decreased 20 percent and overall water use declined while production increased.
|Year||liters/tonne of ore mined|
Our WAFs classify consumed (input) and discharged (output) water quality as category 1 (close to drinking water standards), category 2 (suitable for some purposes but non-potable without treatment) and category 3 (unsuitable for most purposes). Around 92 percent of our input and 88 percent of our output is category 2 or 3, considered lower-quality water. Excluding our Batu Hijau operation in Indonesia, which primarily uses sea water for both processing and cooling, 78 percent of our input water and 48 percent of output water at our operations is category 2 or 3. At our Yanacocha operation in Peru, category 1 water output increased as compared to category 1 input as a result of the water treatment plant which discharges drinking water quality into the basin.
In 2015, our operations’ withdrawal of water significantly affected one source (defined as 5 percent or more of the annual average volume). At our Boddington operation in Australia, the mine decreased its water abstraction from the Hotham River in 2015, from 9.195 gigaliters (GL) in 2014 to 7.689 GL in 2015 due to ecological restrictions. Abstraction from the Hotham River is governed by a water license and only allows pumping of excess water above a scientifically determined ecological reserve for the river. The mine is the only current water user in the area because of the river’s high salinity values.
To reduce Boddington’s risk of a water shortage and to protect other water uses in the basin, Newmont implemented water conservation measures, including recycling water used for tailings and washing equipment, and secured an additional water source in 2015. Because water conservation and availability is expected to remain a critical issue at Boddington, other alternatives to increase water storage and availability are under consideration.
To support regional water strategies, in 2015 sites mapped watershed information, compiled water user information, reviewed impact assessments and developed stakeholder engagement plans.
Notable efforts in 2015 to better manage the withdrawal of water and the quality of water discharged at our sites include the following:
- At the closed Mesel mine in Indonesia, the Independent Scientific Panel (ISP) concluded nine years of continuous environmental monitoring of the former mine’s Submarine Tailing Placement (STP) in Buyat Bay. Among the findings in the ISP’s summary report are that the STP, which took place from 1996 to 2004, has not resulted in observable adverse environmental impacts on the ecosystem of Buyat Bay; future negative impacts to the marine ecosystem from the deposited tailings are not expected; and the entire ecosystem is diverse, healthy and safe for all forms of marine tourism.
- At our Batu Hijau operation, we completed a number of water infrastructure improvement projects including additional seepage collection systems, realigned diversion pipes, improved drainage, increased water pumping capacity and a larger tailing line to reduce the risk of any uncontrolled water releases. Stakeholders were engaged on an independent study of the communities’ current water usage and projected future needs. With 2015 being the driest year on record since Batu Hijau commenced operations in 2000, a cross-functional site team worked together to effectively manage the reduced water resources to meet production, domestic and community needs.
- In Nevada, Newmont continued to engage with key stakeholders on critical water issues. A Newmont delegate serves on the Humboldt River Basin Water Authority’s Board of Directors, representing the interests of the mining industry on matters related to water management of the basin’s ecosystem. Newmont also participated in the Nevada Drought Forum. The forum brings together water experts, government officials and industry representatives to address challenges and recommend changes to water management practices.
- In Peru, our Yanacocha operation and the municipal water authority completed work that began in 2012 on seven out of the nine projects aimed at improving drinking water quality and supply reliability for more than 180,000 people in the city of Cajamarca. During the year we reconfigured two water treatment facilities – Yanacocha Norte and Pampa Larga – and commenced construction on a new facility – La Quinua – to ensure compliance with Peruvian regulations on new receiving water quality limits that went into effect in 2015. The La Quinua plant is expected to be complete in early 2016. Yanacocha conducted quarterly community participatory monitoring with 49 communities. Results from the monitoring of 27 canals within the four basins where we operate were reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies.
- We developed a community monitoring program for the Merian project in Suriname, which will be implemented prior to commencing commercial production in late 2016.
In addition to working toward meeting the process-oriented targets related to our water strategy, we will engage with internal and external stakeholders to identify quantitative targets that we expect to establish in 2016 and report against beginning in 2017.
|Year||Target definition||Target for sites||Target for Newmont|
Percent implementation against the sites’ Water Strategy Action Plans
|100 percent completion of actions and 80 percent achievement of water targets established in the site Water Strategy Action Plan||
100 percent of sites complete their action plans for the year and achieve their water targets (80 percent in 2016 and 90 percent in 2017)
|2017||100 percent completion of actions and 90 percent achievement of water targets established in the site Water Strategy Action Plan|
Implementing the global water strategy is a long-term, evolving process. The focus in 2016 will be on updating site charters based on lessons learned in 2015; continuing discussions with NGOs and aid organizations to partner on a plan to create a positive legacy of water stewardship; and adding the cost of water for evaluating water management projects.
The Merian project in Surinam, the Long Canyon project in Nevada, and the Cripple Creek & Victor operations in Colorado will complete WAFs by the end of 2016.
The Buyat Bay Independent Scientific Panel (ISP) is expected to issue its final report at two public meetings in Indonesia – in Manado and Jakarta – in early 2016. To document the methodologies, data and conclusions of the monitoring program, ISP members intend to develop and publish a number of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles.