Mining companies boost collaboration to address water scarcity, report finds

Water scarcity poses a risk to companies in the mining and metals sector, but it also represents a significant opportunity–to catalyze collective solutions that improve water security and sanitation for all, according to a new report from the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.

Released ahead of World Water Day, the report, Shared Water, Shared Responsibility, Shared Approach: Water in the Mining Sector, finds that mining companies are increasingly thinking more collaboratively–with local communities, government and other industries–about shared water use. Such partnerships have already resulted in improved infrastructure and better water management. But much more must be done, given that access to water remains one of the biggest global challenges of the 21st century.

“Water is a critical resource for everyone,” said ICMM CEO Tom Butler. “It is essential that all users—communities, businesses, governments–collaborate to optimise the use of water. Although every location has its own challenges, this joint IFC and ICMM paper shows that positive collaboration is beneficial for all.”

Lance Crist, IFC’s Global Head of Natural Resources, said: “IFC and ICMM have a common goal of improving mining’s contribution to sustainable development. We believe that the industry can be a partner for inclusive economic growth—by sharing knowledge about the practical challenges of access to water, and by learning from the experience of companies and local partners that have overcome them successfully and sustainably.”

Such collaboration and knowledge-sharing was critical to the development of the Oyu Tolgoi mining project in Mongolia—which is expected to boost the country’s economic output by as much as 30 percent over time. IFC brokered a set of water-management principles for mining companies—the Voluntary Code of Practice. Eight mining companies operating in the country became signatories to the code and have worked for more than three years on a coordinated and consultative approach to water management.

“Water is life. Water is a precious resource. No one can live without water. By participating in the water monitoring program I can now see what is the water level, quality of water of my well and whether it is affected from mining or environment impact. By learning this, you can protect your water from contamination and find solutions to keep water safe in the future,” Jargal Sumya, Herder participant in Energy Resources’ co-monitoring program, Tsogtsetsii soum.

Picture courtesy of Anglo American.