To continue our World Water Week conversation, we look at water scarcity and stress in the watersheds where we operate, as well as our approach to responsible water management in those regions.
In many areas where we operate, water scarcity and stress are common. Newmont currently relies on two tools to identify which of our operations are located in these areas: the Global Water Tool (GWT), developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Aqueduct, developed by the World Resources Institute. GWT assesses water scarcity primarily from the perspective of quantity of water per person per year, while Aqueduct incorporates additional variables in assessing stress, including regulatory and reputational risk; flood and drought occurrence; upstream storage; groundwater stress; protected lands upstream; media coverage; delivery infrastructure and threatened amphibians. Using GWT, our Tanami operation in Australia qualifies as being located in a water-stressed area. Based on the more robust criteria provided by Aqueduct, KCGM in Australia; Carlin, Phoenix and Twin Creeks in Nevada; Akyem and Ahafo in Ghana; and Yanacocha in Peru are considered to be in water-stressed areas.
Not all of these areas are dry. In fact, in some water-stressed areas, we handle large volumes of water. Yanacocha, for example, receives an average annual rainfall of approximately 1.5 meters, where we treat and discharge approximately 40 million cubic meters of water each year, to very strict standards. In one of the basins at Yanacocha, we are required to treat the discharge water to drinking-water-quality standards. We do this through a series of steps, with a final step being reverse osmosis, which produces one of the purest qualities of all available treatment technologies. The water is then available to local downstream users. For the other three basins, water is treated to local regulatory standards for agricultural water, which are stringent and comparable to EPA standards in the U.S.
A lack of water also presents challenges. At our Boddington operations in Australia, we are working to minimize consumption in an area that has suffered prolonged drought. Over the last two years, we have completed substantial work to reduce the possibility of a water shortage, and we will continue working toward an even more reliable water supply. Our strategy focuses on:
- Conservation and internal recycling;
- Developing new sources of water, as required; and
- Increasing storage capacity to better utilize water from the Hotham River over the wet season.
In areas where risk is related to water quantity, Newmont has put in place similar water efficiency programs. But because our commitment to water efficiency extends beyond places at risk, we have implemented programs at all of our operations, regardless of water stress.
Regardless of climatic region, all of our operations strive to use the best water-management systems and technologies available. All sites are working toward reducing consumption of fresh water through maximizing recycling and using lower-quality water in place of fresh water, wherever practical. Each site is currently developing specific targets to improve Newmont’s responsible water stewardship globally.
Please look for further updates in our sustainability report, Beyond the Mine.