SUSTAINABILITY Water stewardship

Water Management

Access to water is a fundamental human right and a vital resource for Gold Fields’ mining and ore processing activities. Beyond its environmental impact, water is a resource we share with the communities and other industries near our operations. Our licence to operate depends on responsibly stewarding this critical resource.

Gold Fields is strongly committed to responsible water stewardship, considering three of the countries in which we operate – South Africa, Australia and Chile – are water stressed. Climate change also impacts our operations and communities through, for example, severe rainfall, shifts in rainfall patterns and prolonged droughts.

The Group’s 2020 – 2025 Water Stewardship Strategy is supported by three-year water management plans. Our strategy comprises the following three pillars:

  • Security of supply: We work to understand and secure water resources for the life-of-mine, embed water planning into operational management, enable informed management decisions and update water security risk profiles. All operations have integrated life-of-mine water security plans and actions into their business plans
  • Water efficiency: We continually reduce demand for freshwater and optimise water use to prepare for potential water supply shortfalls and ensure sufficient supply to the areas in which we operate
  • Catchment management: We manage external water risks to the business and our nearby stakeholders. We collaborate with stakeholders to address common challenges and identify opportunities.

We are developing a 2030 Water Stewardship Strategy, to be completed in H2 2023, to ensure we meet our two water-related 2030 ESG targets. We also invest heavily in water infrastructure that benefits our operations, adjacent communities and small-scale farmers. Two of our six Group legacy programmes being developed at Cerro Corona in Peru and South Deep in South Africa are water related.

Group performance

During 2022, Gold Fields spent US$37m on water management and projects (2021: US$32m). We continue to invest in improving our water management practices, including pollution prevention, recycling and water conservation initiatives.

For regional projects that have a marked impact on our water management practices, see our Climate Change Report.

Water withdrawal1 across the Group decreased to 18.3GL in 2022 (2021: 18.5GL), while water withdrawal per tonne processed remained unchanged at 420L/t. To meet our two water-related 2030 ESG targets, we set the following targets for 2022:

  • Reduce freshwater withdrawal by 37% from the 2018 baseline of 14.5GL to 9.2GL: We reduced our freshwater withdrawal to 8.5 GL (2021: 9.4 GL), a 41% reduction from the 2018 baseline. This was mainly due to a decrease at Tarkwa, as the mine improved water recycling by installing a micro-filtration unit at its carbon-in-leach plant. We anticipate the reduction from the 2018 baseline will fall to 31% in 2023, as Salares Norte is newly included in our portfolio. However, we remain on track to achieve our 2030 target of a 45% reduction in freshwater withdrawal
  • Recycle or reuse 75% of total water used: We achieved this target in 2022. The target remains the same for 2023, and we are on track to meet our 2030 target of 80%

We benchmark our water use by participating in the CDP Water programme. The programme’s water score indicates a company’s commitment to water transparency. In 2022, Gold Fields again received an A- ranking, one level below the highest possible score. The CDP surveyed 169 mining and metals companies, with an average score of B-. Only 12 were ranked in the A leadership category.

For details of our water management approach, policies and guidelines, go to:

Water recycled2/reused3

% of total

Water recycled2/reused3

Water withdrawal


water-withdrawal per tonne

Freshwater withdrawal


Water recyled
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