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Every drop counts

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Our work with water

Water is of great importance to our business activities, given that around 75% of our current portfolio is located in high-water-risk regions. Effectively managing our water risks and impacts mitigates the risk of operational disruptions and presents an opportunity for us to play a leadership role in our water catchments.

In 2016, we developed a new water management standard and water management guidelines in alignment with global best practice and the ICMM water reporting guidelines.

A cornerstone of the new standard is a more focused and structured approach to managing catchment-wide water risks, in partnership with regional stakeholders. The standard requires that every site identify or appoint a water co-ordinator to oversee implementation of the standards and our strategy. Each business unit has developed and is implementing its own water plan and in certain high-risk regions we have developed regional water plans.

Download our Water Policy for further information.

case study: kolomela

Water is key in everything we do, so it’s important that we take a responsible approach to how we use it, how we protect it and how we recycle it. Being a relatively new mine, Kolomela needs vast volumes of groundwater removed in order to keep the mine safe.

To do this we’ve applied the latest technology and implemented a robust water management system that separates clean water and treats it so that it can be reused.

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In addition to making sure that the groundwater in and around Kolomela is properly managed, we’ve invested in a pipeline system that pumps excess water into the Vaal Gamagara (VG) water supply pipe scheme. This scheme distributes potable water to farms, industries and communities along the pipeline route.

And when there’s too much water for the VG pipeline, we divert it to our Artificial Aquifer Recharge System.

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Facts and statistics

Our total new-water consumption decreased by 14% from 222.9 million m3 in 2015 to 190.7 million m3 in 2016. The decrease was due to the divestment of water-intensive operations and efficiency measures.

Of our total operational water requirements, 66% was met by recycling/re-using water (2015: 64%). Water saving projects, which include more effective dust suppression, dewatering of tailings and more efficient ore separation, saved us approximately 23 million m3 of water (2015: 25 million m3), relative to projected levels. Our operations also seek to reduce their dependency on high quality water through water switching and the use of lower quality water where practicable.

Case Study: emalahleni

Our work with water: the eMalahleni water reclamation plant

At Coal South Africa, water treatment plants are used extensively to treat mine-affected water.

The flagship eMalahleni water reclamation plant, built in partnership with BHP Billiton and the eMalahleni Municipal Council in 2007, treats around 25,000 m3 of mine-affected water every day, which meets the potable water needs of nearby mines and provides drinking water for 80,000 people.

The treatment process produces gypsum-based by-products, which are used in the manufacture of cement and fertiliser industries. Gypsum is also used for making building materials – it is mixed with cement, clay and water and baked to produce bricks, blocks and panels for constructing homes.

Anglo American has built 60 houses from the gypsum-based building materials.

The role of innovation

The outcomes of the Anglo American FutureSmart Mining™ Water Open Forum held in 2015 helped us to better define our technology pathway towards closed-loop operations and the potential elimination of our water dependency. Investing in new integrated water-technology solutions is one of our most important focus areas and fundamental to achieving a step-change in water efficient mining.

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Evaporation control is becoming a major focus for water scarce operations. We are also continuing to make good progress in introducing newer technologies.

These include, for example: separating water streams that do not contact wastewater; discharging less water to tailings; and bitumen-based dust suppressants.

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Our Water Stories

Partners in the future: Our commitment to the SDGs

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Q&A with our Head of Environment:
Rohan McGowan-Jackson

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World Water Day 2015: The role of water in HIV support

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A day in the life of a water resources and environmental engineering manager

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Easing the pressure on local water supply: Mantoverde

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Open Forums: Imagining the Future of Water

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