We recognise that water is a precious resource for the natural environment, human and animal consumption and economic use. It is also essential for many of our industrial activities.  

Our strategic ambition

We seek to understand fully and minimise our operational water footprint and manage our activities in a way that protects our shared water resources.

Our approach

We recognise that access to safe and clean water and sanitation is vital to support public well being and economic activities. We are committed to the principles of water stewardship at our industrial assets, through the application of strong and transparent water governance, effective management of water, and collaboration with stakeholders to improve our performance and achieve responsible and sustainable water use. 

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 operate. We regularly assess the potential risks, opportunities and impacts, including those associated with climate change, such as extended periods of severe drought or flooding, and develop appropriate risk-mitigation and water management plans. 

We require good water management at our industrial assets and, based on our risk assessments, we undertake 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.

As of the end of December 2022, around 35% of our industrial sites were in water-stressed areas (regions defined by the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas as having a high to extremely high baseline water stress or an arid and low water use baseline). In these areas, we are committed to identifying and leveraging opportunities and developing 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, we require our industrial assets to consider increased water management requirements and associated costs, such as dewatering and water treatment prior to discharge. We require our industrial assets to identify options to reduce impacts from water, such as improving surface water management design, where possible.

Our Environmental Policy and our Environment and Closure Planning Standards, which are aligned with ICMM’s Water Stewardship Position Statement, are supported by our water management strategy. 

Further information on our approach to water stewardship and performance is provided in the 2022 Sustainability Report  and our extended Excel-based ESG data book .

Water management performance

Our water indicators, metrics, and definitions consider the ICMM’s Water Reporting- Good practice guide. Details of our 2022 water withdrawal, discharge and use by country and river basin can be found here.

Total ‘Water Withdrawal‘ and ’Total Water Discharge‘ KPIs have been subject to external limited assurance in accordance with the International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000 – see 2022 Annual Report, pages 281-282. See also 2022 Basis of Reporting . Both the 2022 Annual Report and the 2022 Basis of Reporting are available at 

Glencore water balance 2022

In 2022, our overall water input was 1,093 m3 (see Glencore water balance graphic above). Our industrial assets source most of their water from surface water (including rainwater/precipitation) or groundwater due to the dewatering their mines. Additional water sources include brackish or seawater, third-party supply and residual water entrained as moisture in mined ores. Most third-party water received by our industrial assets is of low quality, such as treated wastewater, and primarily used for processing activities. During 2022, less than 2% of our industrial assets’ total water input was potable water (included in third-party sources in graph below) and was mainly used for human consumption.

Sources of water input 2022 (percent)

Water input by region between 2020-2022 (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 water are also supplied to third parties, while less than 1% of water is discharged as groundwater.

Destination of water output in 2022 (%)

Water output by region between 2020-2022 (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 below 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 water represents water quality Category 2 followed by Category 1 and Category 3.  Most of Category 3 water is sent to third parties or via our internal water sharing networks to other Glencore industrial assets for further use or treatment.

Water input by quality in 2022 (percent)

Water output by quality in 2022 (percent)

We consume water mainly through evaporation due to operational processes, dust suppression and water storage. About 10% of our water was retained as moisture in waste or final products.

Water consumption in 2022 (percent)

Water consumption, use, reuse and recycling between 2020-2022 (GL)

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

Under Glencore’s Risk Management Framework and HSEC&HR Incident Management Procedure, we classify the severity of actual and potential sustainability-related incidents against a five-point scale, from negligible, to minor, moderate, major and catastrophic. We conduct relevant investigations, implement corrective actions and share the lessons learnt with the wider business. 

We assess and monitor our water-related risks through an annual internal survey that our industrial assets are required to complete. The survey identifies potential substantive water-related impacts, risks and opportunities (e.g., physical, environmental, financial and social) due to operational changes. We require our industrial assets to establish appropriate preventive and mitigating controls for all risks, irrespective of their classification.

Impacts from water-related risks may 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, 
  • Fines 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 substantive water-related risks:

Type of risk Description of risk Industrial sites identifying risk as material Examples of the measures we are taking
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, our industrial sites are required to 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, depending on the local situation, 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%) When appropriate, 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 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, to provide 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 planning. As a member of ICMM, we are committed to applying a catchment context-based approach to water-risk assessment and management.

During the last few years, we have also identified various water-sharing and saving opportunities to conserve water, reduce operational water dependency, and mitigate potential environmental and local community impacts. Some of these have been completed, while others are at planning or implementation phases, as follows:


  • Our Australian coal mines’ natural landform rehabilitation and closure works are 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 has designed and is now in the process of installing its gypsum plant to treat acidic, metalliferous and high sulphate return water from its concentrator leach circuit. The installation is planned to be completed in 2024. This is expected to improve the separation of water by quality, increasing reuse and disposal/discharge options for the segregated water. Increasing reuse and disposal options is expected to reduce reliance on dam storage and the risk of open pit inundation.
  • Our Queensland Metals industrial asset has defined site-specific targets for its nine industrial sites aiming to reduce their overall water withdrawal and discharge by the end of 2027. The planned measures include reducing reliance on groundwater and potable water and increasing water efficiency and recycling rates.

Latin America

  • Lomas Bayas expects to commence a process of relinquishing its surface water extraction water rights in 2024, which would culminate in the fresh water being replaced with treated sewage water from a third-party supplier by 2027. This is expected to save 5,754,000 m3 of fresh water per annum.

South Africa

  • 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, prevent water losses, and reduce reliance on water supplied by the local municipality. The municipality will redirect approximately 400,000 m³ per annum of water that was previously supplied to the smelter to local communities.
  • Our Kroondal industrial asset will use a filter press expected to reduce the quantity of water that is sent to its waste disposal facility by 40 m3 per hour. The filter press is planned to be operational in 2024. It has also identified an opportunity to increase process water storage by building a 5,000 m3 dam.
  • Helena Chrome Mine is installing a return water pipeline of underflow from the thickener at Thorncliffe Mine. This is expected to increase the opportunity to reuse processes water and decrease consumption of freshwater from around 220,000 m3 to 140,000 m3 per annum by the end of 2023. 

Further initiatives are detailed in our case studies.

In 2020, we published a Group level water target for our industrial assets located in water-stressed regions: 

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.

We are expecting to disclose our performance at Group level against this target as part of the reporting on our 2023 performance in 2024. The table below presents a selection of industrial site-level water targets complementing the Group-level target.

Aligned with our commitment to ICMM and considering international best practice, we require a catchment context-based approach. 

Description of target Current status


In South Africa, our ferroalloys’ industrial sites plan to establish partnerships to implement catchment interventions to reduce pollutants of concern, avoid sedimentation and improve the surface water flow to achieve the catchment resource quality objectives by the end of 2025. Most of our ferroalloys industrial sites are part of catchment management forums, which provide an opportunity to establish partnerships to improve water quality in the catchments where we operate. No partnerships have been formalised yet. Two of our sites, Rustenburg Smelter and Western Chrome Mines have completed sedimentation studies.


In Kazakhstan, our Ridder Metallurgical Complex is targeting a reduction of water withdrawal of 23% by 2022 against a 2018 baseline. Ridder Metallurgical Complex has completed the construction of a water recycling system which uses purified recycled water for processing purposes. This has resulted in a reduction of our water discharges by almost 30% compared to 2018 but has unfortunately not helped to decrease our originally intended water withdrawal due to extended cooling requirements.


In Germany, our Nordenham zinc and lead smelter is developing a project where it can reuse wastewater from a local water treatment plant for most of its needs, barring human consumption. This project allows Nordenham to use water from alternative sources instead of freshwater. Nordenham is installing a freshwater distribution system and a new digital water measurement system, as well as optimising the inlet of freshwater, pond water and the recycling of surface water. The remaining tasks for this project are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

South America


In Chile, our Altonorte smelter uses over 75% of reused low-quality water (water quality Category 3) supplied from the wastewater treatment plant in Antofagasta. Altonorte is a zero water discharge plant and is targeting improvements to the water balance and water use efficiency. Capital projects concentrate on water recycling and usage reduction and involve the development of both a Thickened Tailings Disposal (TTD) project and slag pot cooling project. 
The TTD project initially targeted a 2.3% reduction in freshwater per tonne smelted by the end of 2019, against a 2016 baseline. The slag-pot cooling project targets a 27.1% reduction of the water that is used for the cooling of the slag by the end of 2023 against a 2016 baseline.

Both projects are estimated to result in a 20% reduction of the freshwater used for the production of 1 tonne of copper anode.

Altonorte fully implemented the TTD project in in 2023 after delays triggered by the Covid pandemic. Recovery of approximately 21.6m3/h represents a reduction of 4% of freshwater per tonne of concentrate smelted, against a 2016 baseline. 

Altonorte has completed around two-thirds of the construction for the slag pot cooling project. Completion of the project and full operational implementation is expected by the end of 2023.


We are committed to transparency and undertake a variety of activities to communicate effectively with our stakeholders. When appropriate, our industrial assets participate in collaborative community-based water projects and consider technology and innovation to improve their performance.

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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Addressing flooding risks
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Bruno Creek restoration project
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Constructing a wetland
Goedgevonden Colliery (GGV)
South Africa 
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Supporting the delivery of clean water
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Monitoring largetooth sawfish
McArthur River Mine
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Groundwater evaluation project (2022)

2022 World Water Day

Protecting groundwater where we operate

Watch Film

Protecting groundwater where we operate

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

Our mining operations need to remove water (dewatering) from the mining pits 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 process water usage, and where needed, for potable water preparation. 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 typically 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 are committed to environmental protection guidance, such as the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code and the Convention for Prevention of Marine Pollution (MARPOL), to help protect these water systems.

Key highlights 2022

As part of our commitment to sustainable water management, in 2022, we:

  • Completed a comprehensive gap analysis against our Environment Standard’s requirements.
  • Progressing the Environment Standard’s implementation through addressing identified gaps.
  • Over 70% of our industrial assets have completed the development of water management plans and set catchment context based local water targets.


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.  Our assessments are based on Aqueduct Global Maps 3.0 data.

Basis of Reporting 2022

Our Basis of Reporting 2022 provides information, including definitions and the applied underlying processes, on the collection and verification of specific environmental, social and governance metrics and is available at

care and maintenance

A phase in the life cycle of an industrial asset where mining, processing and/or operations temporarily ceased and are placed into care and maintenance, ready to be restarted again, as circumstances may allow.

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.


A natural commodity consisting of extracted and processed mineral ores; the first step towards producing refined minerals and metals.


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 (see 2022 Extended ESG Data under


Water that is entrained in ore or raw material (water input) or waste or final products (water output).


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 an industrial assets and water discharged to groundwater, respectively. This includes water that is entrained in ore extracted from the ground. Aligned with ICMM definitions, water entrained in ore extracted from the ground is reported as a withdrawal from groundwater (not as produced water).


Health, safety, environment, social performance and human rights.


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

industrial activities

Glencore term covering activities of the Group’s industrial assets focused on exploring, extracting, processing, refining and delivering commodities, which generally provide a source of physical commodities for the Group’s marketing activities. 

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, with “our industrial assets” being the industrial assets over which Glencore has operational control.

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.

operational control

Where Glencore directly or indirectly controls and directs the day-to-day management and operation of the entity engaging in such activity, whether by contract or otherwise.


A document issued by Glencore with a Group-wide scope, setting out the high-level approach and requirements on a topic. Group-wide scope means the approach and requirements apply to all regions and business activities.


A document issued by the Group which establishes requirements and defines the specific steps that must be taken to implement those requirements, generally as required by Group policies and standards.

sea water

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


All individuals and groups that have an interest in, or can either impact or be impacted by, Glencore’s business which may include employees, shareholders, debt providers, communities, suppliers, customers, governments, and civil society.


A document issued by Glencore which sets out the key requirements established on a particular topic. It contains detailed requirements that support the principles set out in the Code of Conduct or a policy. A standard does not set out the step-by-step process of how the specific requirements should be met.

surface water

Water extracted from or discharged to rivers, creeks and wetlands that may or may not run through an 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 our industrial assets’ internal water sharing networks.


The residue of an industrial process, especially residue that contains mineral ore. 


Tailings are stored in purpose-built tailings storage facilities (TSFs).

water discharged

Water discharge is defined as water that is released back to the water environment (surface water, groundwater or seawater) or to a third party. This includes water that is shared across our industrial assets, which can partially result in double-counting. The quantity of water shared across our industrial assets can be found in our annual Sustainability Report.

This category excludes diverted water that is actively managed (e.g., physically pumped, actively treated or has material consumptive losses) by the industrial asset but does not enter the operational water system used to supply the operational water demand (i.e., is not used by the industrial asset in an operational task or activity).

Our total water discharge does not include water that is entrained in waste (e.g., tailings) or products (refer to ‘Entrainment’). This is reported separately.

supply to third parties

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

third party water

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 

Version 1.3 of the Water Accounting Framework (WAF) for the Minerals Industry of the Minerals Council of Australia from 2014 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 Resources 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-stressed regions 

Regions defined as having a high to extremely high water-use baseline, or arid and low water-use baseline, as per the World Resources Institute (WRI) definitions.

water withdrawal

This category includes water that is withdrawn from the environment (surface water, groundwater, seawater or precipitation) or provided by third parties (this covers supplied potable water and water of lower quality, e.g., treated wastewater that can be used for production purposes). It also includes water that is shared across our industrial assets, which can partially result in double-counting. The quantity of water shared across our industrial assets can be found in our annual Sustainability Report.

This category excludes diverted water, which is actively managed (e.g., physically pumped, actively treated, or has material consumptive losses) by the industrial asset but does not enter the operational water system used to supply the operational water demand (i.e., is not used by the industrial asset in an operational task or activity). 

Our total water withdrawal does not include water that is entrained in ore and raw material. This is reported separately.

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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