Improving access to clean drinking water

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.

Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold operation in Mongolia’s South Gobi Desert is in a region which, on average, receives just 57mm of rainfall a year. Innovative conservation is enabling the company to reduce its water consumption drastically: in the first half of 2018, Oyu Tolgoi achieved an average water recycling rate of 88%.

In South Africa’s Limpopo province, Anglo American Platinum is working with local stakeholders to sustainably increase water supply to 70,000 people across 42 villages in Mapela. The 10 year project, financed by the company, will see co-owned Hall Core Water Mapela drill and maintain boreholes capable of delivering 3.5 million litres of water a day.

Local John Maluleke enthuses, “Now we have water every day, our animals don’t have to walk long distances to get water. We can live hygienically because we can do washing anytime we want to. Life is really beautiful.”

At Gold Fields’ Cerro Corona mine in Cajamarca province, Peru, a long-term programme began in 2014, spending $2.4 million since, to improve water quality and access for local communities in partnership with the government. Manglio Rojas, Social Development Manager, Municipality of Hualgayoc, says: “Previously the water was turgid and muddy. The mine installed a big water treatment plant, and new pipes and water basins.” Almost 90% of households now have access to sufficient clean running water. As local resident Carmen Guevara puts it: “During the dry season here, from June to September, we suffered from lack of water. But we are now in September and we have got clean water.”

The water supply to San Cristóbal in Lipez, Bolivia, surrounding Sumitomo Corporation’s open-pit silver, lead and zinc mine, traditionally came from a small spring feeding a communal pool, with no purification. Since 1999, the new town has benefitted from a potable water system, fed since 2013 by a well water pumping system, complemented by storage and transition tanks. All of San Cristóbal’s 513 households now have easy access to safe, potable drinking water, with clear benefits to local health and quality of life.

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.’