Promoting economic development through sustainable stewardship

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.

Minsur’s San Rafael smelter and refinery at the town of Pisco on the west coast of Peru exemplifies the company’s commitment to the efficient use and conservation of water. All water used throughout the plant’s operations is treated to remove metals and other contaminants before being returned to the surrounding environment, to meet local animal consumption and agricultural irrigation needs. The quality of the water is rigorously monitored on a daily basis using online control systems at the discharge point, and monthly samples go to an external laboratory, providing third party endorsement of quality, and supporting the development of participatory environmental monitoring.

The Choapa Valley, around 400km north of Santiago, Chile, comprises some 17,000 hectares of farmland. With its semi-arid climate, periods of drought are common. Antofagasta Minerals’ Minera Los Pelambres mine is working with the Choapa River Surveillance Board to improve the irrigation infrastructure on which the region’s farmers rely. Since 2009, over 200 kilometres of irrigation channels have been lined  to reduce seepage and more than 140,000m3 of water stored in reservoirs, benefitting more than 4,000 farmers.

The partnership between Vale and state agencies in southeast Pará, Brazil resulted in the installation of eight new automatic monitoring stations in the river basin of the Itacaiúnas River, making water levels easier to track. The Itacaiúnas project covers an area of approximately 42,000 km2, involving the territory of 10 municipalities and an estimated population of 661,000 inhabitants as of 2016. These stations allow for a more efficient use of the hydric resources. The integration directly benefits the basin’s population by eliminating unnecessary waste, allowing for greater medium- and long-term water security, and advance warning for critical events like floods and droughts.

MMG has helped develop over 43 fishing ponds in six local communities near to Kinsevere copper mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bringing in a fish farming expert to consult on the right methods. The fishing, primarily a common freshwater fish called tilapia, can be highly productive and profitable, while also supplying fresh, healthy food for the local community. Kinsevere’s Social Development team is working closely with communities to provide the technical training needed to support the development of fish-farming initiatives. Michel Santos, Director of Social Development at Kinsevere, says: “Fish farming can provide significant economic benefits to local communities. This has triggered an enormous increase in aquaculture projects. With this multiplication of community ponds there is also an added benefit of making the price of fish more affordable for all.”

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.’