Growing access to sanitation and hygiene in mining communities

As a major water user, the mining industry has an important role to play. We’re highlighting just a few of the many projects undertaken by ICMM members around the world, aiming to mitigate negative impacts and make a positive contribution to the places where their operations take place.

In the arid Northern Cape of South Africa, water is a scarce resource and that makes it an even more critical factor in the lives and the health of local communities. African Rainbow Minerals’ Khumani Mine has been working closely with those communities, and investing in new toilet facilities to improve sanitation and hygiene. In 2017, 658 toilets were constructed in Magojaneng and Seoding Villages in Kuruman, while the local Mabothe Secondary School benefitted from construction of a new hygiene block providing facilities for 600 students.

Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde mine has been a member of a multi-sectorial water users committee for Arequipa city in Peru since 1983. As Arequipa’s population grew, water storage and treatment facilities struggled to keep up, with 90 per cent of municipal wastewater being discharged directly into the river Chili. Technical Advisor, Julia Riveros Delgado says: “In the past, the quality of the vegetables that Arequipenians ate was poor, and everybody in Arequipa knew those products came from fields irrigated with sewage, which was the cause of different illnesses.” The mine built an on-site waste water treatment plant to meet both its own needs and those of the city. Around 99 per cent of city sewage is now treated, protecting the river from contamination.

Alberto Osorio, Director of Arequipa’s Administrative Water Authority, says: “Before construction, discharges of untreated domestic and other wastewater meant crops were unfit for export. Now there are no longer unpleasant odors from the river, we have coliform-free agriculture, and places such as La Joya Antigua and La Joya Nueva can export onion, garlic and other products they grow. The plant is the first of its size in the country, and this cooperation between a private company and the government has brought great benefits to Arequipa and its 800,000 inhabitants.”

Alongside local partners, Newcrest’s Lihir mine has supported the delivery of water, sanitation and hygienic improvements in Kabil village in Central New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. In this, its third WaSH initiative in the province, the company financed construction of 25 rain water catchments and 125 latrines over a nine-month period. Kabil’s population of 1,000 people now has access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure.

This article was produced as part of World Water Week 2018, ‘the annual focal point for discussing the globe’s water challenges,’ is organised by SIWI, an international water institute, as an integral element in its endeavours to strengthen water governance and improve ethical and equitable control over ‘who gets what water, when and how, and who has the right to water and related services, and the associated benefits.’