Water management

Water is a shared and finite resource. We aim to preserve water sources, protect the waterways we use and support access to high-quality water.

Why this matters

Through good water management, we minimise our impact on water resources – for the benefit of local water users. 

For example, we:

Reduce, reuse and recycle water

By improving our water efficiency, we reduce our impact on local water supplies, especially in areas where supply is under stress. 

128 million m3

of the water we used in 2016 was recycled from on-site facilities


Number of times each drop of water is reused at Lomas Bayas in the Atacama desert, Chile

Invest in community water schemes

Through investment in water-related programmes such as wells or filtration plants, we help communities gain access to high-quality water.

For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we are partnering with a public water agency to upgrade water filtering for the city of Kolwezi.

$3.4 million

spent on community water infrastructure in 2016

Manage water-related risks

Through effective risk management, we help preserve the quality of water we release into the environment, and preserve waterways we use for transporting commodities.

360 million litres

of waste water treated each year at Oaky Creek coal mine, Queensland, Australia

How we manage water in Ulan, Australia

Our approach

We seek to understand our impact on the environment – using what we learn to minimise our impacts on water sources and the shared use of water.

To achieve this, we work with local water users, host communities and governments.

We have a Group water strategy. Through this strategy, we aim to:

  1. Identify and assess our material water impacts, risks and opportunities
  2. Improve our understanding of our water footprint
  3. Develop and implement water management plans covering the lifecycles of each of our assets – to avoid, minimise or mitigate the impacts and risks
  4. Improve our water management, including identifying and setting water-related targets
  5. Support continued engagement with significant stakeholders, and public reporting on our progress.


Our water balance

We seek to constantly improve our understanding of our water footprint; this underpins our water management strategy. 

We are working to better define the “water balance” at our assets – in other words, the water we consume, how much we withdraw from various sources, and where it goes – to support improvements in our monitoring, reporting and water management.

Principles we follow

UN Global Compact - Principles 7, 8 and 9

Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges

Principle 8: Businesses should undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility

Principle 9: Business should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies

UN Sustainable Development Goals - Goals 6, 12, 14 and 15

Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

International Council on Mining and Metals - Principle 6

Principle 6: Pursue continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change


We participate in the CDP water programme.

Our progress

The progress we made in 2016 includes:

  • Harmonising our reporting with the Water Accounting Framework of the Minerals Council of Australia – as part of our work to understand our “water balance” at each asset
  • Putting in place a plan to identify and assess sites we think are “high water risk”
  • Using a risk mapping tool to assess levels of water stress.


Next steps

In future, we will:

  • Continue identifying high-risk sites, and assess practices at these assets to find out how we can improve. Our assets defined as “high water risk” will implement five-year targets for the years 2017–21.
  • Begin a pilot study, using the ICMM’s "catchment-based” approach to water management
  • Define minimum water management requirements for our assets – with enhanced standards for high-risk sites.