Waste water treatmentCreating sustainable water management solutions in mining and the extractives industry must be given first priority as significant investment is required to renew and upgrade the industry’s water infrastructure and supplies.

According to Christine Colvin, senior manager, freshwater programmers SA WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), the instability caused by unstable water supplies – sourcing, distribution and management, is attributed to the mismanagment of the resources, and  miners not understanding fully, the differences of mining projects.

Colvin, who was speaking at a panel discussion focused on the challenges facing the industry in the management of water said, “The challenges that miners will focus on are usually on the business itself. But even from a business perspective water management needs to see a radical change in transparency, especially from miners who are top of their class.”

Colvin added that mining companies needed to implement strategies that would accommodate the climate change.

“Climate change has increased uncertainty and dried up water assets. 2016 was the hottest year on our record, and that introduced high volatility, which was felt in the water resources. “

The panel which included Mark Cutifani, chief executive, Anglo American, Pierr Gratton, president and chief executive officer, Mining Association of Canada, and Nick Holland, chief executive officer, Goldfields Limited, all agreed that a decisive and strategic stance had to be taken by government, which would be a cornerstone of miners water reserving strategies.

“We would like to see a high level of security from government and private entities, and with that, transparency in the management of water resources and accompanying policies.”

July Ndlovu, chief executive officer (Coal SA), Anglo American, speaking at a different panel discussion explained that water was a major input for mining processes. He explained that for Anglo American, it had become an imperative to reduce consumption in water stressed environments.

“Top on our agenda is trying to establish ways of recycling water, or for us to become a waterless miner,” he said.

“Investors can see there is a risk if regions run short of water, and miners are often told to divert water to struggling mining communities. Investors want to be comfortable to know that you can anticipate these issues. We see a lot of investors who don’t care about our returns. But water is important. Do you see possibilities to work with the state – that is the debate we were having at the moment.”