Environmental Stewardship

Water Management

Water is essential to both our stakeholders and to our operations. Given our geographical scope, we operate in areas with both water surplus and water scarcity issues. Our Water Stewardship Strategy is designed to help us better understand and manage our water footprint and water-related risks. Our strategy requires each operation to achieve certain milestones, all of which are planned for achievement by the end of 2017. The milestones include:

  • Water audit and corrective action plan
  • Hydrogeological model
  • Site-wide water balance
  • Water footprint
  • Water management plan
  • Site-specific water targets
  • Stakeholder collaboration plan

Water Withdrawal by Source

The quantities of water withdrawn are typically measured by flow metres; however, there are points of withdrawal that may not be equipped with a flow metre and, in these cases, the quantity is estimated, calculated or modelled. Water withdrawal by source is shown in the table below. The significant drop in surface water withdrawal after 2013 is simply due to the disaggregation of precipitation from the surface water category beginning in 2014. At that time, all sites reported precipitation as a separate category of water withdrawal.

Water Withdrawal by Source34

2015 2014 2013
Surface water (m3) 2,660,700 2,674,100 12,274,800
Groundwater (m3) 32,650,700 35,081,600 38,985,600
Precipitation (m3) 12,576,887 14,112,300 Not reported
Third-party water (m3) 178,100 197,700 151,800
Total water withdrawal (m3) 48,066,400 52,065,700 54,412,200

Water Sources Affected by Withdrawal of Water

The Peñasquito mine reports two groundwater sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water. “Significant” is defined by G4 criteria as withdrawals that account for 5% or more of the annual average volume of a given waterbody. Peñasquito is in an arid environment and, to compensate for water losses and water entrained and accumulated in the tailings facility, Peñasquito is adding water from groundwater to the process via a series of water supply wells. Additionally, to maintain the open pit as a dry working environment, there are a series of dewatering wells, which are also withdrawing more than 5% of the annual average volume of the aquifer.

Peñasquito is striving to increase water recycling and reuse and to reduce the intensity with which fresh water is added to the processing circuit. Their results have improved from 2014 to 2015. Regular monitoring is also underway to ensure detection and appropriate management of any potential environmental impacts.

The water sources are not designated as a protected area, nor has any important biodiversity value been assigned to the water sources. Peñasquito conducts ongoing engagement with local communities regarding water source issues as they arise.

Water Recycling and Reuse

The rate of water reuse and recycling is a measure of efficiency – one that helps us track improvements that result from implementation of the Water Stewardship Strategy. Our water reuse and recycling rate, as a percentage of both total water withdrawal and total water use, increased from 2014 to 2015.

Water Reuse and Recycling35

2015 2014 2013
Total reused or recycled (m3)36 91,217,600 83,687,500 90,783,700
Total water withdrawal (m3) 48,066,400 52,065,700 51,412,200
Reused and recycled as percentage of water withdrawal (m3) 190% 161% 177%
Reused and recycled as percentage of total water use (m3) 65% 62% 64%

Water Discharge

The water quantity and quality, the receiving environment, and the quantity of water discharge later reused are shown in the table below. Any treatment requirements for discharged water are established based on site-specific standards to ensure both regulatory compliance as well as prevention of significant negative environmental impacts. Treatment needs and methods are widely variable across the company and dependent upon the pre-treated water quality and the receiving environment. The water quality metric that we monitor is whether or not the discharge was in compliance with the applicable standards.

There has been some water discharged outside of the applicable water quality standards, mainly at Éléonore, where the issue is related to effluent impacts to trout and daphnia. Éléonore has been, and continues to, work proactively and transparently with the regulatory authority on the technical aspects to achieve compliance with the applicable standards.

Water Discharges37

2015 2014 2013
Discharge to surface water (m3) 15,793,700 14,103,800 14,716,300
Discharge to groundwater (m3) 364,900 23,900 298,500
Discharge to a third party (m3) 535,200 556,400 528,000
Discharge (loss) to evaporation (m3) 6,759,000 9,607,900 11,328,100
Total (m3) 23,452,800 24,292,000 26,870,900
Discharge with water quality outside standards (m3) 1,419,500 334,200 665,400
Percent of total discharge with water quality outside standards 6.1% 1.4% 2.5%

Waterbodies Significantly Affected by Discharges

The Red Lake mine discharges a quantity larger than 5% of the receiving waterbody, Balmer Lake. Balmer Lake is a small headwater lake that drains south into the Chukuni River and eventually into Keg Lake. There are no known negative impacts related to effluent quality from the current mine discharges. Environmental monitoring completed in Balmer Lake has indicated significant improvements in its water quality and overall biological health in recent years.

Cerro Blanco treated and discharged mine water in compliance with the appropriate regulatory conditions. This discharge takes place in a waterbody that is a tributary to the Ostua River and eventually to the Laguna de Guija, which is a lake shared by both Guatemala and El Salvador. This lake has not been identified as a Ramsar site in Guatemala. However, the Guija general area in El Salvador, which includes the lake and surrounding wetlands (all located in El Salvador), covering more than 10,000 hectares, was declared a Ramsar site in 2010.

Consistent with our best practices for environmental management, careful attention is paid to the discharge water quality by both the Cerro Blanco project staff and the regulatory authorities to ensure that the discharge water quality does not cause any negative impacts to the Laguna de Guija. Cerro Blanco operates a water treatment facility to ensure that any water taken from the underground exploration workings is treated properly prior to discharge. In addition, the water quality monitoring program at the site includes regular monitoring of water quality for surface and underground water as well as monitoring of other important parameters such as aquatic fauna (including fish, macro and micro invertebrate surveys). The monitoring data is submitted regularly to the authorities, and periodic site inspections are conducted.