Towards Water Stewardship with Water Reporting in Mining

Water is a finite resource essential to life and critical for economic growth. According to United Nations statistics, two-thirds of the world population could be living in water stress conditions by 20251 and three out of four jobs worldwide are water-dependent2. Water is also a vital input for mining, and the industry has been improving how it manages water over the years. How then will the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) “A practical guide to consistent water reporting” work towards supporting water stewardship?

ICMM & Its Members
ICMM is an international organization dedicated to a safe, fair and sustainable mining industry. The international organization is comprised of 23 of the world’s leading mining and metals companies3 that account for about a third of the global mining activity. Each member company has pledged their commitment to adopt the disclosure standards for corporate water reporting outlined in the guide.

What is Water Stewardship?
ICMM’s approach to water stewardship is set out in their position statement released January this year: “Water stewardship is the use of water in ways that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial. Effective stewardship requires collaboration and concerted action from all parties, including government, civil society, business and local communities through inclusive stakeholder engagement.”4

Purpose of the Guide
Water reporting is important in mining due to the industry’s high water dependency. As with many industries, there is a lack of consistency on how mining companies disclose their water use. A few water reporting systems already exist and are being used by mining companies. In some cases, mining companies are reporting on one or more system but these standards were developed for multi-sector reporting of water metrics and do not capture mining specifics such as wastewater discharge and industry related water risks.

ICMM’s guide, released in March 2017, provides minimum disclosure standards that will allow mining companies to communicate water data in a consistent and comparable manner. This will create greater transparency, further improve the industry’s water management performance and contribute to more sustainable water resource management practices. Information reported will also inform stakeholder decision making and track how the industry is working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on clean water.

Guide Contents
Rather than discount water reporting systems and information that already exist, the new ICMM water reporting metrics will align with existing water disclosure systems. This will support the mapping of relevant metrics between systems and minimize additional data collection to achieve standardized industry water reporting.

The guide consists of three sections:

  1. Introduction to the value of consistent water reporting for the mining industry
  2. Overview of data requirements to achieve the standardized water reporting metrics and set a transparent benchmark for the industry
  3. Overview on preparing external water reports, from meeting the minimum standard to providing a more comprehensive summary

Guide Implementation
ICMM member companies will start reporting these standards from November 2018 and it is hoped these standards will be adopted by others in the industry with active mining and smelting operations.

Water is a shared resource and is scarce in many regions. Having a standardized minimum water reporting standard will produce consistent data by which the mining industry’s water management performance can be assessed. It will also enable the industry to develop responses to changes in global water resources.

Written by
Alain Consigny, PEng and J. Chow, BA