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. We share water with the communities and other industries near our operations, making responsible water stewardship crucial for our licence to operate. This is particularly important as three of the countries where we operate – Australia, South Africa and Chile – are water-stressed. Furthermore, climate change impacts our operations and communities through severe rainfall, shifts in rainfall patterns and prolonged droughts.

Our commitment to water stewardship is demonstrated by our 2030 ESG targets, which include two water-related targets:

  • Reduce freshwater use by 45% from the 2018 baseline of 14.5GL
  • Recycle or reuse 80% of the water our operations consume

During the year, we revised our Group Water Stewardship Strategy up to 2030 drawing from global priorities for responsible water stewardship. This includes commitments to industry standards such as the ICMM Water Position Statement and the WGC's Responsible Gold Mining Principles, as well as international policies like UN SDG 6 and the TCFD framework.

Our approach is also guided by a 2030 Water Stewardship Framework, which we developed following a bottom-up approach. The process started with a comprehensive review of the baseline and regional-specific contexts, which included a review of peer companies, risk profiles, current performance and industry trends. We held regional workshops to review our operational risks, which covered regulatory requirements, and social and biophysical considerations. Regional water stewardship strategies and three-year tactical plans with implementation programmes were reviewed, with regional strategies consolidated into the Group's Water Stewardship Strategy. Gold Fields' measures and targets were set, with consideration of the existing commitments made within the context of relevant material global trends. Finally, the Group Water Stewardship Policy Statement was reviewed to ensure alignment of commitments and water-specific statements.

Our strategy, as encapsulated by the Integrated Water Stewardship Framework depicted alongside, focuses on proactive water management and efficiency while enhancing engagement with catchment stakeholders to create enduring value beyond mining. It consists of pillars:

  • Climate adaptation and preparedness: identifying and understanding our vulnerability to drought and flooding
  • Water efficiency: continuously reducing demand for freshwater and optimising water use to prepare for potential supply shortfalls and ensure sufficient supply to the areas in which we operate
  • Protecting water quality: minimising pollution discharge into natural environments to safeguard human and environmental health
  • Catchment management: managing the impact of our operations on host communities in the catchment and collaborating with stakeholders to address common challenges and identify opportunities, including Shared Value water projects

We recognise the local nature of water and, as such, follow a bottom-up strategic approach using regional water strategies as our foundation. All regions have developed three-year water tactical plans to support the implementation of our four strategic pillars. The infographic below outlines our Integrated Water Stewardship Framework.

Our Integrated Water Stewardship Framework

For regional water stewardship strategies and action plans, refer to our Climate Change Report.

Group performance

We continue to invest in improving our water stewardship practices, including pollution prevention, recycling and water saving initiatives. During 2023, Gold Fields spent US$46.6m (2022: US$37m) on water stewardship and projects, including upgrading old return water dams, reusing process water, introducing tailings filters, dust suppression and recovering water used in our truck washing.

We successfully aligned to the ICMM Water Stewardship Maturity Framework during the year, and a third party verified the Group's water management practices and our operations' self-assessment, which were found to be at an advanced level of maturity. Disclosure of water-related matters, internally and externally, were found to be well-established at Gold Fields, while areas of improvement included more collective partnerships, investments in green infrastructure and nature-based solutions.

For more detail on our implementation of the ICMM Water Stewardship Maturity Framework and our regional water stewardship strategies, refer to our Climate Change Report.

Water withdrawal1 across the Group remained unchanged at 18.3GL in 2023 (2022: 18.3GL), while water withdrawal per tonne processed decreased to 406L/t in 2023 (2022:416L/t). Water consumption2 across the Group increased to 13.8GL in 2023 (2022: 13.5GL) due to decreased discharges at Tarkwa and Cerro Corona. To meet our two water-related 2030 ESG targets, we set the following targets for 2023:

  • Reduce freshwater withdrawal by 45% from the 2018 baseline of 14.5GL to 10GL: We reduced our freshwater withdrawal to 8.8GL (2022: 8.5GL), a 39% reduction from the 2018 baseline. This was mainly due to lower-than-planned water use at South Deep, implementation of water saving initiatives at Tarkwa and the delay to the start of operations at Salares Norte. We remain on track to achieve our 2030 target
  • Recycle or reuse 75% of total water used: We recycled or reused 74% of our water in 2023. Challenges included the delay in production at Salares Norte and technical challenges with the South Deep underground filtration plant. The potable water pipeline to South Deep was also damaged by illegal miners. However, the mine also invested in a second reverse osmosis plant to recycle 3ML per day of processed water. The plant will assist South Deep in its target of treating up to 80% of its processed water and reducing the amount of water provided by the public water utility

We benchmark our water use by participating in the CDP Water programme, which indicates a company's commitment to water transparency through a water score. In 2023, Gold Fields received an A ranking, the highest possible score. We are among 16% of companies that reached leadership level in our activity group – metallic mineral mining, which is higher than the sector average of B– .

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

Water recycled3/reused4

Water recycled/reused

Total water withdrawal

Total water withdrawal

Freshwater withdrawal

Freshwater withdrawal
1 Water withdrawal is the sum of all water drawn into Gold Fields’ operations from all sources (including surface water, groundwater, rainwater, or water from other organisations, state or municipal providers) for any use at the mine
2 Water consumption is total water withdrawal less discharge
3 Recycled water is water or wastewater that is treated before being reused
4 Reused water is water or wastewater that is reused without treatment at the same operation