Our operations rely on access to reliable water sources. With populations growing and climate change impacting the predictability of water supplies, our water risks are becoming increasingly broad and complex. In fact, the right to clean drinking water is one of the salient human rights issues associated with our business activities.
Our commitment to create a positive water stewardship legacy 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.
Through our global water strategy, we work to fully understand the watersheds where we operate; participate in addressing watershed challenges for communities, other water users and the operation; 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 managing our human rights risks.
As our operations are located across the world, each operating site has different water needs and challenges depending on the supply, demand and water quality within the watershed. Because risks and impacts vary, we develop site-specific water management charters, which help sites define how to assess their risks and continually improve their water management.
Through Water Accounting Frameworks (WAF), each site defines, measures and reports water use by inputs, outputs, diversions and water quality. The 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).
Because our total water consumption can vary due to factors such as new mines and divested assets, we also report on our water intensity. We calculate water intensity as the amount of water needed per consolidated gold ounce equivalent produced. We believe these are meaningful metrics to track how we manage this resource. Based on feedback, we updated our water intensity metric in 2016, changing it from kiloliters per tonne of rock mined to the current metric of kiloliters per consolidated gold ounce equivalent produced to better align with other external reporting methods and requirements.
We use saline or non-potable water as well as recycling and recirculation techniques and technologies to minimize overall fresh water use to the greatest extent possible. Water treatment technologies also help improve water quality so we can safely discharge it back into local basins.
All our operations recycle process water to minimize the use of fresh water to the greatest extent practicable, and all are considered zero process discharge facilities with the exception of Yanacocha, which discharges water during the wet season. Water is treated, if necessary, to meet the applicable water quality standards and regulatory 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.
We disclose our water management performance in the CDP’s annual Global Water Report. 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.
All but two of our sites met our global target to complete all objectives in the site action plans and achieve 80 percent of the water targets established for 2016. In Australia, our Tanami operation delayed one of the actions proposed for 2016 until early 2017 due to infrastructure improvements taking place as part of the operation’s expansion, and KCGM delayed a planned well replacement due to technical difficulties with the existing well.
Work continued during the year to improve our Water Accounting Frameworks (WAF) and our overall understanding of our water management risks and opportunities.
Total water consumed (withdrawn minus total discharged) decreased 21 percent and total water withdrawn decreased 60 percent in 2016 due to the divestiture of our Batu Hijau operation in Indonesia. Total water recycled or reused increased to 68 percent of our total water use compared to 59 percent a year ago. Drivers of this performance include the divestiture of Batu Hijau and the addition of our Cripple Creek & Victor (CC&V) operation, which has one of the highest recycle rates – 94 percent – of all of our operations.
Approximately 57 percent of our input water is category 2 or 3, considered lower-quality water.
Excluding category 3 water – which aligns with the water accounting guidance being developed by the International Council on Mining and Metals to improve consistency and quality of reporting – in 2016, our water intensity increased from 11 to 18 kiloliters per consolidated gold ounce equivalent due to the divestiture Batu Hijau, which primarily used sea water for both processing and cooling. This impact was partially offset by our acquisition of CC&V. Our goal to reduce fresh water use by 5 percent by 2019 will improve our water intensity metrics over the next three years.
Notable efforts in 2016 to improve our water management performance include:
- As part of our 2016 water target objectives, we engaged with internal and external stakeholders to establish site-based, fit-for-purpose numeric targets for reducing our fresh water use over the next three years.
- In Ghana, our Ahafo operation continued work on the construction of a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant and is working with the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on permitting approvals. To ensure water discharged from the RO plant meets all standards, we will begin construction on an additional treatment train – a sequence of treatment processes – for the brine from the RO, with completion and testing of this facility planned for 2017. In addition, to reduce the fresh water intake from the water storage dam, our Akyem operation constructed a dewatering pond to collect both impacted and clean pit water, which will reduce fresh water intake from the reservoir.
- At our Australia operations, a business improvement project at the KCGM plant identified opportunities for immediate cost savings and longer-term reductions in water use through improved control and maintenance processes. In addition, our Tanami operation switched the processing plant’s gravity circuit from groundwater to process water, which significantly reduced the facility’s groundwater usage.
- In Nevada, efforts to reduce the use of potable water included the installation of a third tailings barge pump at Phoenix to increase the mill’s use of reclaimed water; and increased recycling of mill water at Twin Creeks. We also partnered with state and federal agencies to drill a 1,775-foot-deep carbonate test well, and during the year we conducted a 30-day stress test on the Long Canyon regional carbonate aquifer. The test evaluated the content and characteristics of the groundwater system over which our Long Canyon operation resides. Information from the test is being used to define local water characteristics, provide inputs to groundwater models and inform our conservation plans for the site. During the year, the Nevada Division of Water Resources, the Nevada Mining Association – in which a Newmont representative chairs its Water Working Group – and Newmont collaborated on designing a water rights process for post-mining pit lakes and associated evaporative loss of water from defined hydraulic basins.
- In Peru, our Yanacocha operation completed construction on a new reverse osmosis water treatment plant at La Quinua, which will be fully operational in early 2017. This plant was constructed to meet the stringent new water quality standards in Peru. In addition, this plant provides the opportunity to increase fresh water use to downstream users in the dry season.
In 2016, 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 increased its water abstraction from the Hotham River from 7.698 gigaliters (GL) in 2015 to 12.47 GL due to the increase in rainfall during the year. 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.
While we increased our abstraction rate in 2016, water conservation and availability is expected to remain a critical issue at Boddington, and we continue to implement water conservation measures. For example, in 2016 Boddington received approval to use non-potable water at a washdown facility, and we are testing an additive to reduce the frequency of watering and amount of water used for dust control on haul truck roads.
|(in thousand kL)||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016|
|(in kL/Au oz equivalent)||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016|
|(in kL per consolidated Au once equivalent produced)||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016|
|Fresh (category 1 and 2 only)||23||23||21||11||18|
|Total (category 1, 2, and 3)||29||28||26||19||19|
Implementing our global water strategy is a long-term, evolving process. Our fresh water reduction targets aim to account for our sites’ unique water needs and challenges while also recognizing that operations are at different stages of their water stewardship journey. For example, our operations in Australia and Nevada are often faced with drought conditions and have been improving their water efficiency efforts since 2013. Our operations in Ghana have the highest fresh water reduction targets over the next three years largely due to a new reverse osmosis plant coming online in 2017 that will treat water that was previously unusable for operations. In Peru, where our Yanacocha operation discharges more water than it uses, efficiency measures are focused on limiting fresh water used for dust control and on increasing water availability to local agricultural communities during the dry season.
Changes to our operating portfolio and/or business plan may result in adjustments to this target.
|Target for sites||Target for Newmont||Region||Site target for reduction in fresh water use compared to 2016|
2017 – Percent implementation against the sites’ water strategy action plans
100 percent completion of actions and 90 percent achievement of water targets established in the site Water Strategy Action Plan
100 percent of sites complete their action plans for the year
Overall fresh water use reduction of 3 percent compared to 2016 base year
|North America||6 percent|
|South America||0.4 percent|
2018 – Percent of sites achieving water targets
All operating sites to set specific target based on risks and operating needs
Overall fresh water use reduction of 4.2 percent compared to 2016 base year
|North America||8 percent|
|South America||0.9 percent|
2019 – Percent of sites achieving water targets
All operating sites to set specific target based on risks and operating needs
Overall fresh water use reduction of 5 percent compared to 2016 base year
|North America||8 percent|
|South America||1.2 percent|
Other areas of focus for improving our water stewardship performance in 2017 include:
- We will update the site charters and action plans at all sites and continue work to develop a cost of water metric that includes intrinsic values such as social and environmental costs.
- As stated in the Cooperation Agreement we signed with the Pamaka community, which resides near our Merian mine in Suriname, we will continue to work with community members to develop a participatory water monitoring program.
- We will initiate work to integrate the relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into our business. For the “water and sanitation” goal (SDG-6) – one of our five priority SDGs and where we have in place many existing systems and projects such as our investments in potable water systems in host communities – we will work to set meaningful targets that align with and have the greatest impact on the goal. Recognizing the need for public-private partnerships in achieving the goals, we will also seek opportunities for collaboration both within our industry and across sectors.
- Another area of improvement planned for 2017 is the focus on continuing our watershed work and conducting water stewardship workshops in each of our regions. These workshops will focus on how we can raise awareness of the importance of water in each of the areas where we operate.