Water is a shared, vital, and sometimes scarce resource.

As mining is a water-intensive industry, we know that our activities, if not properly managed, have the potential to negatively impact the quality and availability of water for other users. Recognizing this, and that access to clean water is treated as a human rights issue in some of the jurisdictions and settings where we operate, we therefore see it as a priority to manage our water use in a responsible manner.

Our Approach

Our water use, through all stages of the mining life cycle, is managed by Barrick’s Water Conservation Standard and guidance provided by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). The Standard emphasizes water monitoring, risk assessment and continuous improvements in water use efficiency at all of our sites. This focuses our efforts on finding innovative ways to use as little water as possible, while controlling impacts we may have on water quality or access by other users.

50% of Barrick sites do not discharge water to the environment

In addition to our own stringent standards, our use of water is also carefully regulated by local and national government authorities. We obtain water rights and usage permits from local regulatory authorities before using any water resources for mine development and operation.  To obtain these permits we prepare a detailed environmental impact assessment that indicates the amount of water the mine will use, why the water is needed, the potential impact on aquifers or surface waterways and how we will mitigate those impacts.

Once we have these permits, we must then meet specific water quality requirements, including those for processing, dust suppression, potable water use and discharge. Our environmental specialists share monitoring data with appropriate local authorities and other stakeholders, and the mine’s water treatment facilities are inspected regularly by local authorities.

Our Progress

  • Our operations regularly identify water management challenges, mitigation activities and define site-specific bases for water management improvements. As part of an on-going effort to improve site water management and minimize water-related risks, we updated the Barrick Water Conservation Standard in 2015. The changes focused on updating the minimum criteria for consistent monitoring, analysis and reporting of water related data, thereby ensuring a consistent approach for maintaining site water balance and a consistent approach to conducting water management risk assessments.
  • At the Grants closure site in New Mexico, we are implementing a number of improved and new water treatment systems. These include the installation of an improved reverse osmosis system with microfiltration of up to 1200 gallons per minute (gpm). This will replace an older 600 gpm unit.   In addition, the site is implementing a new zeolite water treatment system that selectively removes uranium from groundwater at 1500 gpm.  The Grants team is also piloting a tri-polyphosphate system to precipitate uranium in-situ.  As part of our efforts to continually improve our ability to treat contaminated waters, the site has also field-tested electro-coagulation systems, in-situ biological treatment and forced air evaporation.
  • Barrick’s new water treatment plants at Pierina completed their first year of operation in 2015. The plants treat acid rock drainage from the waste rock storage facility and open pit according to national standards. The facilities also provide irrigation and livestock water for the surrounding communities.
  • On September 13, 2015, the site identified a valve failure on a leach pad pipeline at the Company’s Veladero mine in San Juan Province, Argentina, resulting in a release of cyanide-bearing process solution into a nearby waterway through a diversion channel gate that was open at the time of the incident. For further information see here.

Priorities in 2016

  • It is becoming increasingly clear that managing water at our South America operations represents one of the company’s major challenges.  Due to their geographic locations, these mines may encounter weather conditions that can be difficult to forecast and manage.  Nonetheless, the company is committed to finding more effective means of handling these challenges.  Accordingly, water management issues in South America remains a critical area of focus for the company in 2016.
  • We are currently conducting a thorough review of existing standards and guidelines, and developing new standards and guidelines as appropriate, with the goal of designing a comprehensive water management framework designed to lower risks of future releases. As part of this initiative, we are actively exploring opportunities to use technology to automate monitoring and decision making, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our systems, and improve transparency with our stakeholders.

Water Quality

All of our mines have mandatory water monitoring stations to keep track of water entering and leaving an operation. This ensures that water quality is maintained in local waterways.

At some of our operations, water used for processing and mining is thoroughly treated and put back into the environment. This is done under permitting requirements and these properties monitor the quality and quantity of any discharged water. Permit limits or legal standards govern the concentrations of certain constituents that can be discharged in the water. We also monitor groundwater and surface waterways downstream of certain operations to ensure we are not having a negative impact on the local environment.

When water quality exceeds permit limits to relevant government agencies, it is reported. Our environmental specialists share monitoring data with appropriate local authorities, and the mine’s water treatment facilities are inspected regularly by local authorities.

In 2015, Barrick discharged 127.2 Mm3 of water back
to the environment once it met water quality permit limits

Water Conservation

Barrick operates in a number of arid and semi-arid regions where we preferentially use brackish or saline water to meet our water needs. Along with reducing costs and maximizing the availability of fresh water for other community users, using saline water also reduces soil salinity, often a problem for farmers and ranchers in arid areas.

We also reduce capital and operating costs at many sites by recycling and reusing water. This occurs either when a water outflow from one process is used for another – such as wash-bay water being used for dust suppression following necessary treatment – or when gold-laden processing water is stripped of the gold and the water is then re-circulated back through the processing system. Barrick has made significant efforts in advancing metallurgical technologies for the gold and copper concentration process to reduce freshwater demand and reduce costs associated with water.

Barrick developed and patented a new technology — an Air-Metabisulfite treatment (AMBS) — that does not use cyanide and enables the copper flotation process to use saline or brackish water with minimal metallurgical impact. This improves metallurgy significantly (compared to a lime process) and also allows us to reduce potential energy requirements, if water treatment was previously required.

We also work to engage with other water users, such as agricultural producers, to pursue sustainable management of water resources. In communities that lack clean water, we have programs in place to help maintain fresh water supplies.

62% of the water Barrick uses is recycled


Transparency is an important part of how we manage water. Our environmental specialists share monitoring data with appropriate local authorities, and the mine’s water treatment facilities are inspected regularly by local authorities. We also publish detailed company-wide water data online and are long-time participants in the CDP’s annual Water Program.

Barrick also actively engages with local communities on water-related matters through community participatory water-monitoring programs and other forms of communication. In participatory monitoring programs, Barrick’s environment and community relations teams partner with local community members to collaboratively monitor water quality. By gathering data and viewing results side-by-side, these programs increase transparency in our processes, underscore our confidence in the measures and systems we have in place to maintain water quality and, ultimately, help build trust with those who share this essential resource with us.

72.9 Mm3 water was used for mining activities in 2015

We have water-monitoring programs with communities located near our operations in
Peru, Argentina, Zambia, Canada, and the Dominican Republic.


Water Monitoring and Why Mining Companies Do It

Our expert in environmental chemistry explains

World Water Day

Focusing on Water and Jobs

Hundreds of people at Barrick manage this precious resource responsibly

Date Download Description
May 6, 2015 files/design/bodybg/our-approach.jpg
2014 Responsibility Report
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Gold  $ 1,268.90 +3.55 +0.28% Volume: April 28, 2017

Our vision is the generation of wealth through responsible mining — wealth for our owners, our people, and the countries and communities with which we partner.

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