Water is an essential resource for the natural environment, human beings, and business activities. We recognise access to water as a fundamental human right and strive to support equitable access to water through implementing sustainable water management systems at all our industrial assets. 

Our ambition

To minimise our operational water footprint and encourage fair and equitable access for all water users.

Why this matters

As a global diversified business, we recognise our role as stewards of this shared natural resource and its importance to our production processes. Aligned with our commitments as a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), we strive to responsibly manage water for the long-term protection of the ecosystems and communities where we operate. 

Recognising the variability of the local conditions in which our industrial assets operate, wherein some have low water availability while others have excess water, we monitor and assess water-related conditions and develop action plans to address identified risks and opportunities. We regularly assess the potential impacts associated with climate change, such as extended periods of severe drought or flooding, and develop appropriate risk-mitigation plans. 

Around 30% of our industrial assets are in regions defined by the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas as having high to extremely high water baseline stress and/or arid and low water use. In these areas, we identify and leverage opportunities and develop specific catchment-based water targets to improve our water use efficiencies and to increase water recycling and reuse, where possible. 

In areas with excess water, there can be increased water management requirements and associated costs, such as dewatering and water treatment prior to discharge. Wherever possible, our industrial assets identify options to reduce impacts from water, such as improving surface water management design.

Our approach

In line with our ambition to become a leader in environmental performance, we are committed to the principles of water stewardship across our global industrial assets, through the application of strong and transparent water governance, effective management of water, consideration of nature-based solutions, and collaboration with stakeholders to achieve responsible and sustainable water use. 

We recognise access to safe and clean water and sanitation as a salient human right. We seek to fully understand and minimise our operational water footprint and manage our activities in a way that protects our shared water resources and the ecosystems in which we are present. We are committed to ensuring good water management is in place at our industrial assets and undertake detailed assessments, internal and external target setting, monitoring and implementation of corrective actions. Our industrial assets consult their host communities and other relevant local water users to understand local priorities and to collaborate on sustainable solutions within our water catchments.

Our water strategy is supported by our Group environmental governance, such as our Environmental Policy, and our Environment and Closure Planning standards, that align with ICMM’s Principles and Performance Expectations. We also advance programmes to further support leadership and capacity development within the relevant functions to ensure environmentally sound practices.  

There are five key elements to our global water governance approach:

  1. Understand our water catchment areas, baseline water conditions, and ecosystems 
  2. Assess our potential impacts on water resources, and identify risks and opportunities 
  3. Develop and implement water management plans to responsibly manage this important resource and reduce our water footprint 
  4. Meet or exceed regulatory requirements, and improve our water management performance by monitoring compliance, setting targets, and continuously improving 
  5. Engage with involved stakeholders, report on our progress, and identify partnerships to progress water-related programmes 

Further information on our approach to water stewardship is provided in the 2021 Sustainability Report.

Water management performance

Most of our water is sourced from surface water (including rainwater/precipitation) or from dewatering our mines. Additional water sources include brackish or seawater, third-party supply and residual water retained as moisture in mined ores. Most third-party water received is of low quality, such as treated wastewater, and primarily used for processing activities. During 2021, less than 2% of our total water input is potable water (included in third-party sources in graph below) and was mainly used for human consumption.

Sources of water input 2021 (percent)

Water input by region between 2019-2021 (GL)

Our industrial assets discharge and monitor wastewater in accordance with jurisdictional and/or permit requirements. Most of these water discharges are directed to permitted surface water points, including rivers and seawater, which are routinely monitored. Minor amounts of wastewater are also supplied to third parties, while just over 1% of water is discharged as groundwater.

Destination of water output in 2021 (percent)

Water output by region between 2019-2021 (GL)

Most of our water withdrawals are sourced from water quality Category 2 (medium quality) followed by Category 3 (low quality) and Category 1 (high quality) – see glossary for a full definition of Categories 1, 2 and 3. Wherever possible we use the water category that is ecologically and operationally the most appropriate option (i.e., use the lowest available quality for the required purpose) while taking other water users’ needs into consideration.

The majority of discharged Category 3 is water sent to third parties for further use or treatment. When required, we treat wastewater in line with applicable discharge requirements and regulatory approvals.

Water input by quality in 2021 (percent)

Water output by quality in 2021 (percent)

We consume water mainly through evaporation and losses due to dust suppression and water storage, with less than 15% of water being retained as moisture in residual waste rock or final products.

Water consumption in 2021 (percent)

Water consumption, use, reuse, recycling and in storage by region between 2019-2021 (GL)

Further water-related information and data can be found in our 2021 Sustainability Report and our extended Excel-based ESG data , available on Details of our 2021 water withdrawal, discharge and use by country and river basin can be found here.

Our water indicators, metrics, and definitions align with the (ICMM’s ‘Water Reporting- Good practice guide’.

Total Water Withdrawal” and “Total Water Discharge” KPIs are subject to external limited assurance in accordance with the International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000. These KPIs should be read alongside the Basis of Reporting document, available on The assurance statement can be found on page 133 of the Glencore Sustainability Report 2021. 

We monitor, record and analyse our water-related data, including data on incidents, grievances and fines, to identify and better manage potential impacts, as well as undertake adaptive management opportunities to drive performance improvement. 

Aligned with Glencore’s Risk Management Framework and Incident Management Procedures, we classify the severity of all actual and potential sustainability-related incidents against a five-point scale from negligible, to minor, moderate, major and catastrophic, conduct relevant investigations, and implement any corrective actions. Our aim is to avoid water-related incidents. Further information on our water-related impacts is in our 2021 Sustainability Report.

Our water-related risks are assessed based on two approaches:  

Risk assessment of high- and medium-risk industrial sites with identified reputational issues Annual risks survey
By applying WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas’ baseline water stress levels and considering freshwater withdrawal quantities, we identify industrial assets with potential high and medium water-related risks. These industrial assets additionally assess their water quality risk exposure, combining any identified risks to produce a final rating.  In addition to identifying high- and medium-risk industrial sites, we also assess and monitor water-related risks through an annual internal survey of all our industrial assets. This process identifies potential substantive water-related risks and impacts (e.g., physical, environmental, financial and social) due to operational changes. We establish appropriate preventive and mitigating controls for all risks, irrespective of their classification. 

Impacts that may arise from water-related risks include:

  • Increased operating costs
  • Negative reputational impacts resulting in the loss of an operating licence
  • Regulatory restrictions placed on production processes
  • Materially reduced or disrupted production, and/or
  • Physical/weather-related impacts

To analyse and classify material business risks, we apply Glencore’s Risk Management Framework, which contains defined thresholds, to assess the combined impact of potential consequences and probability.

The following summarizes our assessment of material water-related risks:

Type of risk Description of risk Sites identifying risk as material Measures taken
Severe weather events Some of our industrial assets may be exposed to drought, flooding or other severe weather events. 11 (10%) We conduct ongoing risk assessments on potential severe weather events, including their increasing severity due to climate change. Our responses can include installing additional water management infrastructure, such as water transfer infrastructure (e.g., levees, dams, pipes and pumps, etc) to improve drought and flood resilience. As extreme weather can present risks to our host communities, we consider a multi-stakeholder approach within our catchments.
Acid rock drainage (ARD) and/or metal leaching While ARD and metal leaching can occur naturally, mining activities can contribute to, or exacerbate, potential ARD and/or metal leaching impacts in water.  8 (8%) We carry out geochemical testing of rocks and mineral residues to identify potential ARD and/or metal leaching and to determine management actions. We take a risk-based approach to materials and contact water management, which supports reducing possible long-term impacts. If legacy or new ARD and/or metal leaching issues arise, we capture the impacted water and treat it prior to its discharge, or reuse it at our industrial assets. Our management techniques include minimising use of potentially acid generating rock, reducing potential for contact water, upgrading existing or constructing new water treatment plants and capping or removal of the tailings. 
Changing regulations  Evolving regulatory requirements may lead to more stringent water regulations that impact water discharge or withdrawal specifications. This could result in increased water treatment or reuse requirements, or alternative water suppliers.  5 (5%) We routinely engage with external stakeholders, including communities, governments, and regulators to track changing regulations. We participate in regulatory consultation processes and develop effective management responses to new regulations, such as upgrading existing or constructing new water treatment plants. Our industrial assets are required to meet or exceed relevant regulatory discharge thresholds and permit requirements.
Potential adverse impact related to water availability (volume or quality impact)  Water availability might be affected for our industrial assets and/or other local water users due to water quality issues, changing water withdrawal allocations or insufficient infrastructure 7 (7%) Across our industrial assets, we aim to minimise our water withdrawals, while maximising reuse and recycling of water. We monitor water risks and develop water management plans, which identify opportunities to improve performance and minimise impacts. We undertake, when appropriate, providing water to communities for agricultural or drinking purposes. If needed, we upgrade existing or construct new water treatment plants. In areas of water baseline stress, we strive to use low quality alternative sources to reduce impacts on the overall catchment.  

Our water risk assessment is also supplemented by dedicated assessments to identify potential risks associated with climate change as part of our Group Energy and Climate Change Standard, which includes a requirement to integrate any associated risks into the business and life of asset (LoA) planning. As a member of ICMM, we are committed to applying a catchment context-based approach to water-risk assessment and management.

We have also identified and implemented various water-sharing and saving opportunities to conserve water, reduce operational water dependency, and mitigate potential environmental and local community impacts, as follows:


  • In Kazakhstan, our Kazzinc Polymetals’ Project supplements snow melt as a source of water with a water-efficient concentrator that primarily uses mine water and recycled tailings storage facility water.
  • Our Ridder Metallurgical Complex in Kazakhstan has reconstructed its water circulation system to use treated wastewater in its technological process. This reduces both water withdrawal and disposal. 


  • Our Clermont Open Cut coal industrial asset implemented a new water security programme, involving several projects aimed at improving water management and successfully reducing water demands by 50% over the last couple of years, including:
    • Accessing groundwater from a separate aquifer than that used by local landowners, 
    • Increasing water recovery from the coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) by constructing new tailings drying cells, 
    • Use of dust suppressants, 
    • Increased sourcing of poor-quality water from an adjacent industrial asset,
    • Increasing water use monitoring and tracking across the industrial asset. 
    • Maintenance of stable water sourcing levels, despite increasing pressures related to recent extended drought periods. 
  • Our Australian coal mines’ natural landform rehabilitation and closure works are significantly reducing their water footprint, and mitigating impact from runoff water, as rehabilitated land facilitates drainage and improves water quality in local waterways. 
  • Our McArthur River zinc mine is currently designing a Gypsum Plant to treat acidic, metalliferous and high sulphate return water from its concentrator leach circuit. This will improve the separation of water by quality, increasing reuse and disposal/discharge options for the segregated water. Increasing reuse and disposal options reduces reliance on dam storage and the risk of open pit inundation.


  • Our Portovesme zinc smelter and refinery in Italy has installed a reverse osmosis (RO) plant to treat contaminated groundwater. The RO plant generates water of a quality suitable for use in its operational activities. This has resulted in an 8% reduction of Portovesme’s use of freshwater. 
  • Our San Juan de Nieva zinc smelter in Spain has recently built a 25,000m3 water retention pond to collect rain and operational water. It has also replaced its water-cooling system with air cooling. These initiatives have doubled the amount of recovered water while water savings from the installation of air-cooling systems are being quantified. 

Latin America:

  • In Chile, our Lomas Bayas copper mine replaced its sprinklers with drip irrigation, minimising its overall evaporation rate and improving the distribution of the used leach solution. Its evaporation reduction efforts also include installing floating covers for its ponds, replacing trenches with pipes and implementing irrigation mantles. 

    The irrigation mantle project aims to cover 80% of Lomas Bayas’ leach pads with a film (mantle) representing over 1 million square meters of surface area.

    By the end of H1 2022, 69% of the planned surface area had been covered.

    To date, the project has achieved a reduction of around 1,500m3 of water per day, corresponding with a reduction of 415,000m3 per year, and annual 10% reduction of water extraction.

North America:

  • Our North American closed sites have developed long-term water balance models to improve water management. The models are used to understand site water inventories, design drainage structures, including water diversion ditches to convey runoff and precipitation away from mining-related facilities (e.g., tailings, waste rock). The models are reviewed and updated periodically to assess potential improvements for water management.
  • In Canada, our former Brunswick Mine identified an opportunity to replace freshwater sources with groundwater, supplemented when needed with water from an onsite quarry, for its water treatment plant. This eliminated the need to pump freshwater from a nearby fish-bearing river while reducing the pumping distance, enabling the use of smaller and more efficient pumps that delivered around 15% in energy savings.

South Africa:

  • Our coal mines update their water balances annually and have developed integrated water and salt balances, leading to industrial asset-specific Water Conservation and Demand Management Plans. Water Conservation and Demand Management Plan Toolkits assist in tracking water-related targets.
  • Our Rustenburg Smelter constructed a new stormwater dam with a storage capacity of 92,000m3. The new dam will improve the onsite storage of stormwater and reduces reliance on water supplied by the local municipality. The municipality will redirect some water that was previously supplied to the smelter to local communities. 
  • Our Rhovan Vanadium Mine will conduct in-pit disposal of tailings. The tailings will be dewatered before disposal into the pits and the recovered water treated before being reused in the production. The project will have similar environmental and social benefits as described for the Rustenburg Smelter’s initiative. 
  • Our Kroondal industrial asset will use a filter press to reduce the quantity of water that is sent to its waste disposal facility. It has also identified an opportunity to increase process water storage by building a 5ML dam.

Further initiatives are detailed in our case studies.

In 2020, we established an external group-level water target, which complements existing internal industrial site-level goals and water targets: 

All managed industrial assets located in water-stressed regions to finalise the assessment of their material water-related risks, set local targets, and implement actions to reduce impacts and improve performance by the end of 2023

Reflecting the diversity of our operating locations, our industrial assets tailor their responses to their water-related risks, challenges and opportunities to their operating environment. The case studies provided here demonstrate the variety of work being undertaken.
Utilising wetlands
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
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Strengthening public water infrastructure
South Africa
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Addressing flooding risks
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Piloting ICMM’s catchment approach
Horne Smelter
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Removing contaminants
South Africa
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Strengthening water infrastructure
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Water sharing network
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How we manage water in Ulan, Australia

2022 World Water Day

Protecting groundwater where we operate

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Protecting groundwater where we operate

ulan rehab

How we manage water in Ulan, Australia

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How we manage water in Ulan, Australia

How our industrial assets use water

Our industrial activities use water for various operational activities and continuously aim to identify opportunities to reduce our water footprint and improve our water management practices. Examples include:

Mining activities

The most water intensive activity in our mines is the removal of water from the pits (dewatering) for the safe access of our deposits. This may include both active dewatering and passive seepage collection, as well as diverting surface water bodies, under environmental approvals.

Metal concentrators

Our concentrators use water in the processing of ore to facilitate separating minerals from waste material to produce higher-grade ore concentrates.

Leaching and hydrometallurgical processing

Our leaching and hydrometallurgical processing facilities use water during the further recovery of metals from metal-bearing materials.

Coal operations

Our coal industrial assets use water during the beneficiation of their products to meet customers’ product specifications.

Emission abatement and dust mitigation

We use wet air cleaning techniques, like scrubbers, to remove particles and gaseous substances (e.g., sulphur dioxide). Throughout our operational processes, we also use sprinklers and water carts to reduce dust levels that may result from mining, transport and stockpiling activities.

Water treatment

We collect and treat water for potable water, as well as for process water usage. We treat water prior to discharge in compliance with regulatory approvals, permits and licenses.

Cooling activities

Many of our industrial activities use water for cooling purposes, predominately for non-contact cooling activities (e.g. closed circuit furnace shell cooling) whereby no deterioration of the water quality takes place.

Local water infrastructure

A number of our industrial assets support local governments by supplying water to surrounding communities for a variety of uses including drinking water and agriculture.

Shipping activities

We ship our products over maritime and inland waterways and abide by environmental protection guidance, such as the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code and the Convention for Prevention of Marine Pollution (MARPOL), to protect these water systems.

Our approach to water stewardship

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Our approach to water stewardship
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Our approach to water stewardship

Key highlights 2021

As part of our commitment to sustainable water management, in 2021, we:

  • Launched our updated Group Environmental Policy and new Environment Standard, which significantly improves the articulation of our business performance expectations for water management
  • Developed internal water targets
  • Developed an external water target aimed at improving water management in water-stressed areas
  • Established a partnership with Proteus, a pivotal global UNEP-industry initiative to protect and promote biodiversity and Nature, in marine and freshwater ecosystems as well as on land
  • Participated in the update of the ICMM’s water reporting guidance which was published in August 2021
  • Developed a “What Water Means to Me” video , presenting site-based perspectives, in recognition of the 2021 UN World Water Day.


Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas

Aqueduct is part of WRI’s Water Program and related to the Corporate Water Stewardship initiative. The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas maps and analyses current and future water risks across locations.

Change in storage (delta storage)

The net change (positive or negative) in the volume of water in storage during the reporting period. Aligned with ICMM recommendations, the change in storage volume is reported to allow complete transparency of the overall water balance; and does not indicate an associated water-related impact.


Aligned with ICMM definitions, consumption is the sum of water removed by evaporation, entrainment (in product and waste) and other losses. To maximise transparency, consumption does not include any change in storage (delta storage), which is reported as a separate value.


Water that is entrained in waste or final products.


Water with concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) equal to or below 1,000 mg/L.


Water extracted from bores (wells) or as part of ore body dewatering (aquifer interception or dewatering) in mining operations that is not diverted around the industrial assets and water discharged to groundwater, respectively. This includes water that is entrained in ore extracted from the ground. Aligned with ICMM, water entrained in ore extracted from the ground is part of withdrawal from groundwater (not as produced water).


The International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) is an industry trade body dedicated to establishing and promoting leading sustainability practices.

Industrial asset

An operation involved in the extraction, production or processing of minerals and metals and energy products for sale or further processing. An industrial asset may comprise several industrial sites in different locations (e.g., port, pipelines) under the same management control supporting these activities.

Industrial site

An industrial site such as a mine, oil field, smelter, port or processing facility, whether operating, inactive, in care and maintenance or closed.

Sea water / brackish water

Water that is extracted from / discharged to the sea or ocean, including saline estuaries.

Surface water

Water extracted from or discharged to rivers, creeks and wetlands that may or may not run through the industrial site and water extracted from or discharged to dams and lakes that are external to the industrial site. Surface water withdrawn includes precipitation directly or indirectly captured in water dams and ponds, as well as precipitation that requires treatment ahead of discharge to meet applicable discharge limits. This includes water imported from / exported to Glencore internal water sharing networks.

Water discharged to third party destinations

Water discharged to offsite treatment / disposal locations and water exported to external parties for usage.

Water withdrawn from third party sources

Water purchased or traded that is potable (suitable for drinking) according to the regional requirements and water imported from a company or a treatment facility external to the industrial site that is not potable.

Water quality 

The Water Accounting Framework (WAF) for the Minerals Industry of the Minerals Council of Australia   assesses the quality of water into three categories:

  • Category 1: water that is of a high quality and requires minimal and inexpensive treatment (for example disinfection and pond settlement of solids) to raise the quality to appropriate drinking water standards.
  • Category 2: water that is of a medium quality with individual constituents encompassing a wide range of values. It requires a moderate level of treatment such as disinfection, neutralisation, removal of solids and chemicals, to meet appropriate drinking water standards.
  • Category 3: water that is of a low quality with individual constituents encompassing high values of total dissolved solids, elevated levels of dissolved metals, or extreme levels of pH (high or low). It requires significant treatment to remove dissolved solids and metals, neutralise and disinfect to meet appropriate drinking water standards.

The water quality Categories 1 and 2 of the WAF correspond to the ICMM water quality category ‘high’ and water Category 3 of the WAF to the ICMM water quality category ‘low’.


The World Resource Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that works with governments, businesses, multilateral institutions and civil society groups to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. Its work is organised around seven global challenges one of which is water. 

Water stress

Water stress is the term used to describe ‘the ability, or lack thereof, to meet human and ecological demand for fresh water.

Water stressed areas

Water stressed areas are regions of high or extremely high water stress or that are classified as arid & low water use according to the WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

Water withdrawal

Total water withdrawal does not include water entrained in ores.
Water that is entrained in waste or final products.

Principles we follow

UN Global Compact
UN Global Compact
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Principle 7
Principle 7

businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges

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Principle 8
Principle 8

undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility

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Principle 9
Principle 9

encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies

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Principle 6
Principle 6

Environmental performance

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Goal 6
Goal 6

Clean Water and Sanitation

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Goal 12
Goal 12

Responsible Consumption and Production

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Goal 14
Goal 14

Life below Water

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Goal 15
Goal 15

Life on Land

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