We report to the CDP water disclosure programme every year.

Water scarcity

A 2014 analysis of our assets’ locations showed that around half of our operations are located in “water stressed” regions; some of these were classified as regions of “scarcity” and others as regions of “extreme scarcity.” These definitions were taken from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development water tool. This analysis was the basis for our Group water strategy.

Objectives for our water strategy

  1. Identification and assessment of our material water impacts, risks and opportunities
  2. Gaining an understanding of our water footprint
  3. Development and implementation of water management plans covering each of our assets’ lifecycles to avoid, minimise or mitigate the impacts and risks
  4. Improvement of our water management performance, including identifying and setting water-related targets
  5. Ongoing engagement with significant stakeholders and public reporting on our progress

Plans for the next two years

We plan to focus on:

  • Developing and implementing water management guidelines that are appropriate for our assets; each asset’s risk profile will determine the stringency of the requirements that apply
  • Identifying sites with high water-related risk
  • Assessing the current water management practices at those high-risk sites to identify potential areas for improvement
  • Introducing an appropriate water balance tool to help high-risk assets use a standard approach to reporting water use
  • Collating existing case studies on sound water management practices (eg flood management, water diversion, water efficiency methods and technologies) from around the Group; sharing the results amongst our assets

New water metrics

In 2015 we aligned our water indicators, metrics and definitions with the Water Accounting Framework (WAF) of the Minerals Council of Australia. We will begin to apply these in 2016; we will use them to develop a more detailed water balance model. This will help us benchmark our progress more clearly against the wider industry and help identify areas for operational improvement and increased efficiency across our business.

Water management plans

At assets where there are significant risks relating to water and its availability we require water management plans that cover each stage of the operation’s lifecycle. Assets develop their plans in collaboration with local communities and other stakeholders in the catchment area. They will also develop water intensity and water efficiency targets. 

Examples of water efficiency measures

Each asset’s water efficiency measures vary according to local needs, but may include:

  • Reducing water loss via evaporation
  • Switching to lower-quality water sources wherever possible
  • Treating and reusing operational waste water
  • Researching new sources of water (eg desalination)
  • Deepening water storage dams to improve storage capacity
  • Establishing water efficiency committees
  • Improved tailings management (eg setting targets for water recovery from tailings)
  • Employing best-practice agronomic techniques that improve water efficiency

Piloting a catchment-based approach

We plan to run a pilot project to test a catchment-based approach to water management. A catchment is a land area through which all surface and subsurface water drains into a single body of water, as well as the downstream water affected by the land area’s discharge. In line with ICMM<link to www.icmm.com> recommendations, we are taking a catchment-based approach as this looks at the interconnected activities and issues in the catchment as a whole, rather than considering them all separately, or only considering a specific site’s input/output balance. It encourages organisations to consider how competing demands on water resources can create pressure and potentially lead to conflict. The results of the pilot study will provide the scope for rollout across the Group.

Local water use strategies

We also work with local communities, authorities, agricultural and other industry users to create water use strategies at many assets. These are designed to ensure sustainable, equitable access and robust water management by all stakeholders in the catchment area. They cover efficient water use, water reuse/recycling, responsible waste water disposal and maintenance of equipment that could affect water quality.

For example, some of our underground mines require continual dewatering. We work with local communities and utility providers to ensure that this water can be reused locally. Our industrial sites are also working to recycle and reuse water wherever possible, to reduce their consumption of potable water.

Preventing water contamination

Our waste water treatments vary depending on the requirements of the sector and region, but usually include pH neutralisation and the removal of heavy metals, suspended solids, oils and greases. We monitor the quality of the water we discharge as it leaves our assets as well as within the water bodies it enters, such as rivers and estuaries. We are implementing new technologies to help minimise or eliminate uncontrolled water discharge.

We maintain a fleet of owned and chartered vessels; those we own adhere to the appropriate requirements to avoid spills and water contamination. Our chartered vessels are vetted in accordance with our chartering standards. We use double-hulled vessels as a key guard against leakage. In the unlikely event of a spill, we have emergency response plans to minimise damage.

Our operational and maintenance procedures are aligned with relevant international standards, including OCIMF/ICS guidance, MARPOL regulations and the Ballast Water Management convention for all ballast water exchanges.