Sustainable development

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Water is fundamental to our business; it is of increasing significance given that more than 70% of our mines are in water-stressed areas. To maintain our licence to operate, we cannot degrade water quality, or compromise the access rights of other users. We also have an opportunity to play a leadership role in our water catchments through partnerships and innovation.

Our strategy

Our 10-year water strategy, launched in 2010, reflects our aspiration to demonstrate leadership in water stewardship. The strategy is based on a journey model with three distinct phases. Most of our operations are now progressing beyond the first ‘be disciplined’ stage and are targeting the more advanced ‘be proactive’ and ‘build resilience’ stages, which typically involve activities that go beyond compliance.

Progress is driven through our water-management programme, which has three areas of focus: driving operational excellence; investing in technology; and engaging and partnering with our stakeholders.

The programme is supported by a mandatory Group water standard and delivered via operational water-action plans. In 2013, self-assessments at our sites reflected a 67% average implementation level with the requirements of the water standard, which was issued in 2011. This is an encouraging increase from 62% in 2012. Some of the focus areas for 2014 will be on developing a better appreciation of water risks and costs, and on improving equipment monitoring.

Operational excellence

Every Anglo American operation works towards a water reduction target that was determined in 2011 using our water-efficiency target tool (WETT), which forecasts the projected business-as-usual demand of individual operations and also registers water-savings projects.

Operational targets are aggregated at business unit level, where they are included in business unit CEO performance contracts. These make up our Group target of a 14% reduction from our projected water consumption by 2020. De Beers’ targets will be established and included in 2014.

Where operations face high risks related to water, we develop specific risk-management action plans. These include plans to manage a tight water supply balance at Los Bronces in Chile, or the rain-immunisation programme at Metallurgical Coal in Australia aimed at protecting operations from extreme weather variability, and Sishen iron ore mine’s water-management programme that addresses storm water in and around this vast operation.


Identifying and investing in new integrated technology solutions as one of our key pillars of the water programme is fundamental if we are to reach our long-term goal of becoming water-neutral. In order to achieve this, we need to approximately halve the current consumption of new water at operations and ensure that more than 80% of water is recycled.

In 2013, a project with the University of Queensland to explore the concept of water neutrality in mining was concluded. The outcomes are shaping our understanding of the future technology needs of mining and, in turn, what our own technology development focus should be. Another working example of water in our collaborative technology development approach is our project with technology broker, AMIRA, researching new techniques for integrated tailings management.

Engagement and partnerships

Our engagements with host governments, industry associations, local authorities, communities, NGOs, businesses, suppliers and other stakeholders on water related issues are an integral part of our water journey.

Our involvement in national and local water partnerships is well established. In Australia, we have contributed to a leading industry initiative that implements the best available science to monitor and provide a more complete picture of the river health of Queensland’s Fitzroy Basin. In Chile, we led an initiative to supply water to around 250 families from the Los Caleos community near our El Soldado operation; the initiative has since received formal approval and support from the Chilean government. In South Africa, we are involved in a water-resource development project in the Olifants catchment of Limpopo, where water shortages remains an obstacle to economic development, and local communities lack direct access to clean water and sanitation.

We also have water partnerships with many of our suppliers. In 2013, we signed a global framework agreement with our strategic pump-manufacturing partner, which involves developing joint skills and technologies, including the introduction of dewatering technology.

We continue to participate in a number of important water-related forums, such as the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN) programme, which has three focus areas aimed at addressing South Africa’s water shortages.

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