Reliable and sustainable water sources are vital to our operations. Milling and ore processing activities require large amounts of water from sources that include direct precipitation, rivers and streams, groundwater and municipal water. Our operations also consume water through evaporative and/or entrainment loss (such as seepage) on heap leach and tailings storage facilities, stormwater and process ponds, and waste rock facilities. We work to minimize the amount of water impacted by mining activities through diversion channels and by separating water based on quality to ensure we discharge water in a manner that complies with all laws, regulations and beneficial water use standards.
Water challenges and opportunities
Rising production, changing regulations, growing populations and a changing climate are among the more significant factors increasing our exposure to broader and more complex water challenges. We also recognize the impact our business activities may have on local communities’ access to water. Our commitment includes understanding the availability and uses of water within the watersheds where we operate and developing management methods that reduce or mitigate our impacts on water quality and quantity.
Guiding our approach to effectively manage our water risks are our Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Policy and Water Management Standard, which we updated in 2017 to more closely align with our global water strategy. The strategy’s following five pillars aim to continuously improve how we manage water and respect water’s shared use in the catchments and river basins where we operate:
- Use a watershed approach – by understanding the watershed in which we operate through defining, assessing, mapping stakeholders and developing action plans to maintain security of supply for our operations and other users
- Mitigate environmental and social impacts associated with water use – by assessing impacts and addressing watershed challenges and opportunities to enhance water availability for communities
- Manage water as an asset – through Water Accounting Frameworks (WAF) – which focus on minimizing the water footprint through optimization, reducing fresh water use, and recycling and reuse – as well as site management plans and performance metrics that include public targets
- Collaborate and engage externally on water policy – through participation in international, national and local watershed organizations and by developing water education programs
- Collaborate internally on water stewardship objectives – through a clearly defined governance framework that includes accountabilities, auditing and cross-functional site-level water management teams
As part of our strategy, we seek to understand and mitigate risks associated with the watersheds in which our operations reside. We use several web-based tools to evaluate catchment stress levels and site water risks, including the WBCSD Global Water Tool and WWF Water Risk Filter.
Catchment stress levels are evaluated based on geographical location, climate and water uses, and sites are categorized by “very low” to “very high” catchment level stress. Due to water scarcity in eight of the 12 catchments (67 percent) where Newmont operates, our global water strategy is vital for managing risks and identifying opportunities for water use reduction and system efficiencies.
To measure site-level water risks, we use the WWF Water Risk Filter, which helps us analyze the impact our activities have on the watershed within the context of the basin/geographic risks; understand potential risk exposures; and identify opportunities to proactively mitigate these risks. Based on gold production volumes and taking into account the risk mitigation measures at each site, all our sites are considered to have a water risk that is at a low or a medium level, with more than 80 percent at a low risk level.
|Medium to high||16%|
Our approach to create a positive water stewardship legacy aligns to the International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) Water Stewardship position statement, which requires its members to manage water in ways that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial.
Because our operations have different water needs and challenges, all regions have water strategies, and every site has a water charter and life-of-mine water management plan with an integrated watershed approach. Site-level risks are assessed annually, and reviewed at both the regional and corporate level to share lessons learned and identify opportunities for improvement.
Each site completes a WAF to report water use inputs, outputs and changes in storage. Inputs and outputs are classified by accuracy (measured, estimated or calculated) and by water quality. Category 1 water quality is close to drinking water standards; Category 2 is suitable for some purposes but non-potable without treatment; and Category 3 is unsuitable for most purposes.
Managing water through a watershed approach aims to secure a supply for operations while protecting and enhancing water for other uses. Watershed assessments identify stakeholders and water availability, and the approach recognizes the value of water including potential risks, beneficial uses and enhancement opportunities.
Stakeholder engagement maps and communication plans support collaboration and engagement on water-related matters. For example, our Nevada operations are located within the Humboldt River Basin, and the Humboldt River Basin Water Authority plays a significant role in managing the watershed. In 2015, a Newmont representative joined the Authority’s Board, and our participation has been instrumental in developing stronger working relationships, supporting and managing regulatory changes in Nevada, and providing a greater understanding of mining’s perceived impacts on the basin.
In addition, several of our operations have partnerships with universities and community organizations to form monitoring teams for water quality control/assurance. These teams are mutually beneficial, helping Newmont better understand stakeholder concerns while educating community members on Newmont’s water management practices and performance.
Our operations work to increase the amount of water reused and recycled. WAFs and site water balances estimate the volume and quality of input and output water and measure water intensity and volume of water recycled/reused. Some of our mines discharge water from precipitation and excess water from mine dewatering. Except for Merian in Suriname and Yanacocha in Peru, our operations are considered zero process water discharge facilities. Process water discharge refers to excess water from processing that contains cyanide. The Ahafo mine in Ghana also has a water treatment plant but only treats mine water not impacted by cyanide.
All operating sites are required to:
- Comply with local laws and regulations related to water quality standards for discharge to surface waters or groundwater; in jurisdictions that have no laws or inadequate protections, apply the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality standards for downstream beneficial use;
- Conduct monitoring and trend analysis to report and evaluate system performance, demonstrate compliance with laws, regulations and Newmont standards, and support continuous improvement;
- Consider community needs and cumulative impacts when managing water; and
- Complete annual reviews to identify opportunities for optimization and efficiency, mitigation of environmental and social water impacts, and enhancement of watershed water supply uses.
Our commitment to continuous improvement also includes testing, evaluating, developing and implementing leading water treatment technologies, such as the use of algae for nitrogen compounds; trona (a sodium carbonate compound) in pit lake applications; and microbes and advanced biological treatments for metals and nitrogen compounds.
We disclose our water management performance in CDP’s water questionnaire. Relevant water data – such as water withdrawal, consumption, discharges and water quality – is also reported in most jurisdictions to governments and fee assessors.
For 2017, our global targets included both action plans as well as quantitative fresh water reduction targets for all sites that had established a 2016 water use and consumption baseline. Our Merian (Suriname), Cripple Creek & Victor (Colorado) and Long Canyon (Nevada) operations, which are the newest additions to Newmont’s portfolio, have not established baselines under Newmont’s water strategy methodology, but these operations have developed water action plans and will develop fresh water reduction targets in the future, if appropriate.
All regions met their fresh water reduction targets, and we reduced our overall fresh water use by 3 percent compared to the 2016 base year, meeting our public fresh water reduction target.
At the site level, all sites met their internal target to achieve their respective fresh water reduction target, with the exception of Tanami and KCGM in Australia. Both sites missed their fresh water reduction targets by less than 5 percent, while KCGM achieved its goal to reduce its raw water flow rate per operating hour. Three sites – Phoenix and Twin Creeks in Nevada and Yanacocha in Peru – exceeded their fresh water reduction targets by 25 percent or more.
Total water consumed (withdrawn minus total discharged) increased by 7.6 percent and total water withdrawn increased by 8.0 percent in 2017 due to the addition of the Merian and Long Canyon operations. Total volume of water recycled or reused increased by 30.5 percent with the percent of total water recycled growing to 72 percent compared to 68 percent a year ago. Drivers of this performance include reduced withdrawals of groundwater and increased precipitation from significant storm events in South America and Australia.
Our consumption of water classified as Category 1 increased from 7 percent in 2016 to 79 percent in 2017 largely due to reclassification and the addition of precipitation in the category (which had not been included in previous years). Our consumption of water classified as Category 2 or 3 (i.e., lower-quality water) decreased due to our Boddington operation in Australia reducing extraction from the Hotham River, which has high salinity values.
Our water intensity – which we measure as the amount of kiloliters (kL) of water needed per consolidated gold ounce equivalent – decreased to 18.6 kL per gold ounce equivalent compared to 19.0 kL in 2016. The continued focus on efficiencies and our reduced water use offset the addition of two new operations to our reporting, and six sites reduced their intensity from the previous year. Our goal to reduce fresh water use by 5 percent over the next two years is expected to drive improvements in our water intensity performance.
(KL Per Consolidated Au Ounce equivalent)
|(kL/Au oz equivalent)||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017|
(categories 1, 2 and 3)
In 2017, our Boddington operation continued to impact the Hotham River through its abstraction, which is governed by a water license that only allows pumping of excess water above a scientifically determined ecological reserve for the river. However, these withdrawals were reduced by nearly 50 percent from 2016 due to the availability of other water sources, including above-average precipitation. We expect our understanding of watershed impacts and the vulnerabilities that exist to increase as we advance our water strategy toward water stewardship and through our assessments of both the watershed and site-level water risks.
Globally, we worked on a number of fronts to improve our water management performance:
- We updated our Water Management Standard and WAF to align with our global water strategy and improve consistency among our sites’ reporting. The updated WAF also complies with ICMM’s water accounting guidance, which was finalized in 2017 to support the implementation of ICMM’s Water Stewardship position statement.
- All sites updated their action plans, and our newest operations – CC&V, Long Canyon and Merian – held workshops to discuss the water strategy and develop site management charters and action plans.
- We continued work to develop a cost of water framework to understand the activities, resources and costs associated with water.
- We collaborated with Project WET, an organization that develops science-based materials about water for school curricula as well as training programs for companies, to develop water education programs for K-12 schools. We held workshops in Peru and Suriname with external stakeholders as part of the program that we will begin to pilot in 2018.
- Newmont’s responses to the 2017 CDP Global Water report received a leadership score of “A-” (up from a“B” in 2016). The CDP recognized Newmont for implementing a range of best practices to manage water and mitigate water risks both within its operation and the broader watersheds.
Notable activities at our operations to address stakeholder concerns and improve our overall water management approach include:
- In early 2017, one of two reports sponsored by WACAM, a Ghanaian NGO, alleged that Newmont’s Ahafo mine adversely impacted the local water sources. To investigate these claims, Newmont conducted community outreach to communicate that constructive feedback is welcome and engaged independent scientists from Newfields Company, an international consulting firm, and Dr. K.P. Asante of the Kintampo Health Research Center (a division of the Ghana Health Services) to objectively evaluate the report.
The independent evaluations concluded that the methodology used in the report was inconsistent, not scientifically valid and could not be relied upon as the basis for the report’s conclusions. The experts recommended that Newmont implement a participatory monitoring program, and planning is underway to create a program similar to those we have implemented at our operations in Peru and Suriname.
- Our Ahafo operation completed commissioning (i.e., operational system testing) of a reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant. Independent wet season monitoring commenced to determine baseline water quality and aquatic health upstream and downstream of the plant, and to characterize the effects of discharging treated water from the plant.
- Heavy rains at Tanami, which began in November 2016 and lasted through March 2017, flooded the Tanami Highway resulting in a disruption of deliveries and a four-week suspension of operations. Throughout the year, the site worked to reduce excess water through water management and improved water use through efficiency measures.
- The Tanami operation also conserved water and improved the reliability and security of its water supply by replacing two water pipelines, which were experiencing breaks and failures, to its processing facility.
- As part of its watershed-based approach, our Boddington operation partnered with Peel Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC), a community-based natural resource management organization that promotes an integrated approach to watershed management. PHCC works with landholders, community groups, industry, and governments to address a number of environmental matters with an emphasis on water quality issues.
- After reaching an agreement with Kalgoorlie-Boulder City Council in 2016, KCGM commenced reusing the city’s treated wastewater, which reduced the site’s need to withdraw groundwater from the borefields. The site also began developing its managed aquifer re-injection (MAR) project, which will capture 130 liters per second from pit dewatering and re-inject, or recharge, the water into the aquifer.
In North America:
- At Carlin, we completed construction on a new water pipeline that connects the Leeville underground mine’s water treatment plant to the Pete Bajo underground operation. The new pipeline is expected to reduce Pete Bajo’s fresh water use by 125 million gallons per year.
- Long Canyon continued to evaluate opportunities to employ adaptive water management practices. Routine stormwater inspections identified additional fit-for-purpose practices, which were implemented during the year. The site continued to monitor water quality and ecological conditions of the Johnson Springs Wetland Complex and apply an adaptive management approach to protect the associated aquatic ecosystems.
- Our Phoenix operation reduced fresh water use at the mill by utilizing output from the RO plant and increasing its use of reclaimed water from its tailings storage facility.
- The Twin Creek site reduced fresh water use by reducing flow to its leach pad and increasing the use of recycled water from contact water ponds. The site also continued to engage the Nevada Division of Water Resources and community stakeholders on the Kelly Creek Basin monitoring plan, which is monitoring wells in the area of influence and impacts to groundwater levels in the basin.
- At CC&V, we completed a wetland delineation analysis to evaluate potential impacts of future mine development options and developed a fresh water reduction target for 2018.
In South America:
- During the first quarter of the year, above-average precipitation and flooding at Yanacocha resulted in increased water management activities. Throughout the year, the site worked to reduce excess water through water management and efficiency measures.
- Yanacocha completed an evaluation of water alternatives for Cajamarca. This included identifying water supply sources and engaging with government agencies and other stakeholders to identify opportunities for coordination and partnerships.
- Yanacocha´s Asociación Los Andes de Cajamarca (ALAC) foundation, Cajamarca officials and the municipal water agency signed an agreement to expand and improve the El Milagro water treatment plant. The $3.6 million project will benefit 250,000 people by implementing filter treatment modules and a mud treatment system. The municipal water agency will supervise the construction and operate and maintain the plant during operation.
- Our Merian operation in Suriname commissioned its effluent treatment plant, which will safely discharge processed water, and launched its community participatory monitoring program that is focused on water quality. The operation also held a water strategy workshop, completed a WAF, and concluded a study to further evaluate baseline groundwater quality data that showed arsenic and manganese are naturally elevated. We engaged with regulators to seek approval for revised water quality discharge standards based on the assessment findings.
Implementing our global water strategy is a long-term, evolving process that builds on water management improvements and our understanding of the watershed issues around our operations. Our fresh water reduction targets aim to account for our sites’ unique water needs and challenges.
|Year||Target for sites||Target for Newmont||Region target for reduction in fresh water use compared to 2016|
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
|Africa – 11 percent|
|Australia – 1 percent|
|North America – 8 percent|
|South America – 0.9 percent|
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
|Africa – 15 percent|
|Australia – 1 percent|
|North America – 8 percent|
|South America – 1.2 percent|
Note: These targets do not include CC&V, Long Canyon or Merian. CC&V developed a water target for 2018 and 2019, and water targets are being developed for Long Canyon and Merian in 2018 once a baseline is established. Changes to our operating portfolio and/or business plan may result in adjustments to this target.
We will continue our effort to increase efficiencies and reduce our fresh water use to meet our 2018 and 2019 targets.
Other areas of focus in 2018 include:
- We will work to progress from water management to water stewardship through a phased approach that includes four key objectives – compliance and improved efficiencies, integration of local water risks and impacts, actions aligned with stakeholder expectations, and innovations that drive improved performance.
- As a member of ICMM, Newmont will participate in the organization’s newly formed Tailings Aspirational Goal Working Group. The group will focus on opportunities to reduce the risks associated with water storage, quality and use.
- We will develop an approach for evaluating the cost of water to support investment decisions and improve site comparison of operational costs.
- To address gaps and ensure compliance with our updated Water Management Standard, the majority of our sites will implement action plans that include improvements to the site’s water balance model, an analysis of water quality trends, and reviews of design and management activities.
- In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs), we will work toward advancing SDG-6 – water and sanitation – through our near-term targets to reduce our fresh water use and the new partnership with Project WET. Longer term, we are developing new outcome indicators that will measure the impact of our community investments and programs that support improved water and sanitation infrastructure.