Managing our water resources is critical to our Group, as water is not only a vital resource for our ore processing activities but is also essential to our host communities. Our Ghanaian operations and the Cerro Corona mine in Peru have ample water supply through rainfall in the country, while the four other countries in which we operate – South Africa, Chile and Australia – are water stressed.
This is exacerbated by climate change, which affects our operations and communities in several ways – severe rainfall, shifts in rainfall patterns and prolonged droughts, among others. Apart from this, water scarcity or excessive rainfall can adversely impact our host communities, particularly where agriculture is an important economic activity. Managing our impacts on water catchment areas – by ensuring that we do not reduce the quality or volume of water in the areas surrounding our mines – is therefore key to maintaining our social licence to operate.
During 2020, we started implementing the Group's 2020 – 2025 Water Stewardship Strategy, which is supported by detailed regional water management plans. Our strategy comprises the following key pillars:
- Security of supply: We focus on understanding and securing water resources for the life-of-mine, as well as embedding water planning into operational management – thereby enabling informed management decisions – and updating water security risk profiles to support the sourcing of water
- Water efficiency: We aim to minimise demand for freshwater and optimise the use of water resources to prevent water supply shortfalls and prioritise supply to communities. We have made good progress to reduce freshwater withdrawal in Ghana, Peru and South Africa
- Catchment area management: It is critical that Gold Fields manages external water risks to the business and our stakeholders in the water catchment areas in which we operate. In 2020, all regions assessed their impacts on catchment stakeholders in relation to water withdrawal, water discharges and potential sources of pollution. These assessments indicated that our operations do not have significant negative impacts on these stakeholders. Our operations are implementing formal water stewardship partnerships with stakeholders in their catchments, which we hope to complete by 2025
Gold Fields spent US$25m on water management and projects during 2020, compared with US$27m in 2019. Of this, we spent just over US$10m (2019: US$12m) on maintenance and investments in water infrastructure. Our operations continue to invest in methods to improve their water management practices, including pollution prevention, recycling and water conservation initiatives.
In line with our approach to catchment management, we also invest in water infrastructure that benefits our host communities. This is most pronounced at our Cerro Corona mine in Peru where, since 2010, the mine has invested over US$5m in water-related projects, mostly in the nearby city of Hualgayoc. Last year, the local government initiated a US$6m programme to build almost 2,000 micro-reservoirs to benefit 39 villages and provide approximately 5,000 small-scale farmers in the district with access to water. Gold Fields, supported by a number of government organisations, is the main funder of this programme and managing the construction activities. During 2020, 19 micro-reservoirs at the Cortaderas hamlet were completed as part of a successful pilot project for the programme.
WATER WITHDRAWAL PER TONNE PROCESSED
WATER RECYCLED/REUSED AS PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL
|1||Water withdrawal is the sum of all water drawn into Gold Fields' operations from all sources (including surface water, groundwater, rainwater, water from another organisation or state/municipal provider) for any use at the mine|
|2||Recycled water is water/wastewater that is treated before being reused|
|3||Reused water is water/wastewater that is reused without treatment at the same operation|
Our water performance was a significant highlight for the Group during 2020. Not only did our total water withdrawal1 decline to 21.7GL (2019: 22.3GL), the Group also met its two key targets for the year:
- Reducing freshwater withdrawal by 3% (0.4GL) from projected 2020 demand (as per business plan) to 14.9GL: Total freshwater withdrawal amounted to 9.97GL, a 35% reduction from 2019
- Recycling or reusing at least to 66% of our total water consumption: In 2020, total water recycled or reused amounted to 54.2GL (2019: 47.6GL), or 71%, which was well ahead of our target
We met both targets largely due to improvements implemented at Tarkwa, Cerro Corona and South Deep. At Tarkwa, process water is now reused for cooling at the power plant and for mixing explosives and certain chemicals. At Cerro Corona, which reuses more water during the dry season, water recycling or reuse increased because of lower rainfall during the year. At South Deep, treated sewage effluent, which was previously discharged into the Leeuspruit river, is now rerouted to a return water dam and used in the mining process. The mine also upgraded its potable water pipeline to reduce water losses.
We benchmark our water usage by participating in the CDP Water Disclosure programme, whose score is an indicator of a company's commitment to transparency around its water risks and mitigating actions. During the 2020 assessment, we achieved an A ranking for the first time – one of only 106 high-performing companies out of the more than 5,800 that were scored. Our previous rankings ranged from B to A-.
|For details of our water management approach, policies and guidelines, as well as our adoption of the ICMM Water Stewardship Position Statement, go to www.goldfields.com/sustainability.php|