Water is a vital input to our operations and the security of its supply is of strategic importance both to us and the communities and countries in which we operate. Our preferred future is to be seen as a responsible water steward. The threat posed by climate change is also requiring us to look at new approaches to managing water in our operations, many of which are located in some of the most water-stressed regions of the world.
At the heart of our water strategy and policy, approved in 2010, is our aim to demonstrate leadership within our water basin areas. We believe that this will unlock value in our current operations, safeguard future projects and bring benefit to both the environment and the communities surrounding our operations.
We have an ambitious 10-year strategy that is split into three distinct steps. The first step, Be Disciplined, is about getting the basics right. The second step, Be Proactive, encourages operations to go beyond compliance. The third, Build Resilience, takes us to being part of broader, catchment-level water solutions. Our intention is to achieve ‘water neutrality’ at our new mines by 2030. Implementation of this strategy is being realised through our initiatives in three focus areas: improving operational excellence, investing in technology, and engaging and partnering with our stakeholders.
Our strategy recognises that our operations are at different levels of maturity in terms of water management. Two years into the strategy, we have largely consolidated the first stage of our journey and are now targeting the more advanced proactive and resilient stages, with most right now being at the operational excellence stage.
In 2011, we finalised and approved a new Group technical standard for water management, and updated our Group water guideline. This new mandatory technical standard includes detailed requirements on target setting, water monitoring, site management and water action plans (WAPs).
Our site-level WAPs aim to provide our operations with a clear picture of their internal requirements in the context of legal and water basin-management developments, and are intended to help operations implement integrated water management. Informed by local water basin priorities, the WAPs track new developments and risk areas, address the implications of climate change, provide for social needs and guide stakeholder engagement activities.
An important focus in 2011 was on setting operational water targets through the implementation of our water efficiency target tool (WETT). WETT is a water balance tool that measures the company’s current water consumption against its future business production plan, allowing us to benchmark ourselves for water efficiency, set targets for the future and measure our progress towards those targets. The implementation of WETT across the Group during 2012 led to tangible water savings (see the performance tab), more effective water management, better tracking and reporting and increased awareness of water conservation.
As part of our technology development activities, we are trying to identify appropriate technology solutions and to agree the timeframes within which to achieve our proposed strategic objective of ‘zero net water consumption’ by 2030. The Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) in the University of Queensland is working on defining “water neutrality” in mining and we are also working with industry initiatives on technology (e.g. AMIRA 1087 – Integrated Tailings Management).
Engagement and partnerships
Our engagements range from hosting multistakeholder water dialogues at mines, participating in water basin fora, playing an active role in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) Water Disclosure Project, and working with national and international industry representative bodies such as South Africa’s Chamber of Mines and the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) on regional and global water policy issues.