Africa|Building|Consulting|Financial|Health|Mining|PROJECT|Projects|Sanitation|SECURITY|srk|SRK Consulting|Sustainable|Waste|Water|Environmental|Infrastructure|Waste|Operations
Africa|Building|Consulting|Financial|Health|Mining|PROJECT|Projects|Sanitation|SECURITY|srk|SRK Consulting|Sustainable|Waste|Water|Environmental|Infrastructure|Waste|Operations

Water stewardship gives mines the broader view

20th August 2021


Font size: - +

With South Africa’s growing demand for water – and the impact of climate change on rainfall variability and water supply security – the need for a systematic approach to water stewardship in mining has never been greater.

Water management has long been a focus in the mining sector, according to SRK Consulting environmental geologist and associate partner Lindsay Shand. Indeed, in 2014, for instance, the International Council on Mining and Metals’ water stewardship framework outlined a standardised approach for mining companies, recognising that water connects an operation to the surrounding landscape and communities.

“In our past work with mining clients, SRK often only addressed a particular challenge or project, rather than taking the broader view. There is today, however, a growing recognition that a high-level, concerted approach to water stewardship is not only the environmentally responsible route to take, but also contributes to building the resilience of the mining operation,” outlines Shand.

This resilience lies in the ability to identify and manage the myriad of water-related risks that operations face, she said. These might include water supply uncertainty, compliance issues related to water quality, and downstream discharge impacts. A water stewardship approach can provide the foundation for proactive planning and action to avoid incidents that could threaten operational continuity or even viability and present a liability to downstream water users.

Tools for Progress

While the focus for mining operations is generally on the specific challenge at hand, the larger corporations are starting to see value in considering the bigger picture on water-related issues, concurs principal consultant at SRK Consulting Fiona Sutton,

Often, the scope and demands of water stewardship may seem a daunting prospect at operational level, she explains. “This is one of the reasons why best practice tools are so useful, such as the International Water Stewardship Standard from the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).”

She highlights that the AWS Standard offers a globally applicable framework for major water users to understand their catchment and their own water use and impacts, with practical guidance on how to effectively manage these impacts.

Practical steps and guidance in the AWS Standard, help water users to improve their water practices for better on-site water performance, while also contributing to wider sustainability goals, she notes. “Water crises are being exacerbated by climate change and are now acknowledged as societal risks due to their far-reaching consequences.”

Catchment Care

Water stewardship considers impacts not only on the mine site but in the wider catchment in which a mine operates, says SRK Consulting principal hydrologist Dr Simon Lorentz.

Risks specific to the company can be direct, disrupting actual mining operations, such as the non-availability of water supply to manage operations like waste disposal, says Lorentz. They can also be indirect, where supply chains are disrupted owing to water supply issues or poor water quality.

He notes that catchment-specific risks are influenced by local water resource management and governance effectiveness in dealing with factors such as increasing demand and unpredictability driven by climate variability. They are also affected by local infrastructure adequacy, the amounts of pollution being disposed into water bodies, and the resulting quality of available water.

“In one of our projects, we worked closely with a mine and the responsible authority to ensure that the quality of the naturally saline groundwater from an openpit (fix style) was an acceptable quality before being discharged from site,” says Shand. “This strategy was guided by the presence of sensitive farming activity downstream of the mine and was made possible by taking the broader water stewardship approach.”

Strengthening Reputations

The central position of water in many of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is another reason why many mining companies are starting to embrace water stewardship more systematically, Sutton notes. Many corporates align their strategies with the SDGs, and many of those are relevant to water.

While Goal 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation is key, others that depend on access to water include the goals on No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Life Below Water.

“An added advantage of the AWS Standard is that it allows mines to be accredited once they have met the detailed range of requirements,” she says. “This is valuable in terms of companies’ reputations – whether in the eyes of investors, financial institutions, regulators or the general public.

“SRK’s decades of experience in the mining sector, combined with its depth of expertise in water-related disciplines, positions us to guide mining companies in their water stewardship journey,” Shand concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor



Weir Minerals Africa and Middle East
Weir Minerals Africa and Middle East

Weir Minerals Africa is a global supplier of excellent minerals solutions, including pumps, valves, hydrocyclones, wear-resistant linings,...

Stewarts & Lloyds
Stewarts & Lloyds

Stewarts & Lloyds today supplies steel and tube, pipe and fittings, valves, pumps, irrigation, fencing, profiling and roofing products. The cash...


Latest Multimedia

sponsored by

Photo of Martin Creamer
On-The-Air (02/06/2023)
2nd June 2023 By: Martin Creamer

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?







sq:0.164 0.206s - 176pq - 2rq
Subscribe Now