Protecting local environments

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.

Trojan Pond at Teck’s Highland Valley Copper Operations had been a tailings pond – a storage facility for waste material left behind after the extraction of ore. Teck’s environmental officers and aquatic biologists turned the onetime dump back into a naturally functioning lake ecosystem, teeming with healthy fish. Trojan Pond has now been self-sustaining for over 20 years, and as well as offering a thriving natural home for aquatic wildlife, plays two further important roles: as an invaluable resource for ongoing research into tailings pond reclamation techniques, and as a recreational facility for local people to enjoy.

With its name taken from the sheep and cattle station where it was founded, South32’s Cannington deposit in North West Queensland is the world’s largest producer of silver and lead. Local weed infestations have been a blight on the waterways and land, with devastating effects on the environment, afflicting not only native plants and animals but crops on which local people depend for their livelihoods. Working in partnership with local graziers, South32 has so far eradicated the infestation from over 80,000 hectares of waterways, native habitats and prime agricultural land.

Newmont Ghana is working with the country’s Forestry Research Institute and Forestry Commission Wildlife Division to promote sustainable biodiversity conservation. Following extensive environmental assessment and consultation, Newmont has constructed a fresh water dam within the boundary of its Akyem mine, three hours southeast of Kumasi. The resulting lake provides a perfect 56 hectare habitat for the white-faced whistling duck – an African-Eurasian migratory water bird that breeds in sub-Saharan Africa. Paul Dawson, Environmental Manager at Akyem, enthuses about the new residents: “Before the inception of the fresh water dam, these birds were a rare sight here. Now they flock in large numbers to the area.”

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.’