Water Management

Water is essential to our operations, our stakeholders and the environment. Given our geographical scope, we operate in areas of water surplus and water scarcity. Our Water Stewardship Strategy is designed to help us better understand and manage our water footprint and water-related risks. We require each operation to achieve certain milestones, which are on track 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

When our water stewardship milestones are achieved, we will be well positioned to advance to our next, more aggressive phase of water stewardship: an ambitious, voluntary, industry-leading water stewardship program, H2Zero. This ambitious goal reflects our commitment to sustainable mining, and is a result of our understanding that the mining industry’s stewardship of water requires significant change in the coming years. H2Zero includes short- and long-term targets to eventually get as close to net zero water put into our systems as possible. We intend to become continually more water efficient, to recycle more water, and to invest resources into important innovations related to tailings management and mineral processing, to enable us to pursue this goal. In 2017, we will be developing key targets and metrics so that we can measure our progress Towards Zero Water over a ten-year timeline.

Water Withdrawal by Source

The quantities of water withdrawn are typically measured using flow metres.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 due to a change in recording and measurement. Beginning in 2014, precipitation was removed from the surface water category. Since then, all sites have reported precipitation as a separate category of water withdrawal.

The increase in water withdrawal from 2015 to 2016 was due to deepening mines that encounter and extract more groundwater, coupled with increased precipitation during the year at some of our operations.

Water Withdrawal by Source

2016 2015 2014 2013

Surface water (m3)

2,095,600

2,660,700

2,674,100

12,274,800

Groundwater (m3)

38,977,800

32,650,700

35,081,600

38,985,600

Precipitation (m3)

13,757,600

12,576,887

14,112,300

Part of surface
water1

Third-party water (m3)

143,100

178,100

197,700

151,800

Total withdrawal (m3)

54,974,100

48,066,400

52,065,700

54,412,200

Water Sources Affected by Withdrawal of Water

The Peñasquito mine reports two groundwater sources that are 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 held 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 withdrawing more than 5% of the annual average volume of the aquifer.

Peñasquito is striving to focus more on water recycling and reuse, and to reduce the intensity with which fresh water is added to the processing circuit. Regular monitoring is underway to ensure detection and appropriate management of any potential environmental impacts.

The water sources are not designated as a protected area, and no important biodiversity value has 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.

Water Reuse and Recycling2

2016 2015 2014 2013

Total reused or recycled (m3)

80,100,000

91,217,600

83,687,500

90,783,700

Total water withdrawal (m3)

55,031,000

48,066,400

52,065,700

51,412,200

Reused and recycled as percentage of total water withdrawal3

146%

190%

161%

177%

Water Discharge

Each site is responsible for the requirements for treatment of discharged water. This avoids significant environmental impacts, and ensures that local regulatory compliances are met. The methods and requirements for treatment vary widely, and depend on the applicable standards, the pre-treated water quality, and the receiving environment. We monitor and report on whether or not the discharge is in compliance with the applicable standards.

At Éléonore, where there is an issue of toxicity standards for trout and daphnia in local waterways, 1,819,000 cubic metres of effluent was discharged that was outside of the applicable water quality standards. Éléonore has been working, and continues to work, proactively and transparently with the regulatory authority to achieve compliance. In 2016, a major water treatment plant was under construction which will remedy the issue. It is expected to be completed and commissioned in 2017.

At the Porcupine mine, a small, one-time discharge of 280 cubic metres of effluent exceeded the pH standard. The issue was very short in duration and resolved immediately.

Water Discharges

2016 2015 2014 2013

Discharge to surface water (m3)

15,331,500

15,793,700

14,103,800

14,716,300

Discharge to groundwater (m3)

362,500

364,900

23,900

298,500

Discharge to a third party (m3)

436,800

535,200

556,400

528,000

Total (m3)

16,130,800

16,693,800

14,684,100

15,542,800

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 which 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 in Balmer Lake has indicated significant improvements in its water quality and overall biological health in recent years.

At Cerro Blanco, treated and discharged mine water is in compliance with the appropriate regulatory conditions. Water is discharged into 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. In Guatemala the lake is not identified as a Ramsar site (of "international importance" under the Ramsar Convention). In El Salvador, however, the Guija general area, more than 10,000 hectares which includes the lake and surrounding wetlands, was declared a Ramsar site in 2010.

Consistent with our best practices for environmental management, we pay careful attention to the discharge water quality to ensure there are no negative impacts to the Laguna de Guija. Cerro Blanco’s water treatment facility ensures 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.