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Sustainability > Environment

Water Management

We strive to use only what we need and to reduce our impact on other water users in the countries and communities with whom we partner.

Water is a shared, vital, and often scarce resource. As mining is a water-intensive industry, our activities, if not properly managed, have the potential to negatively impact the quality and availability of water for other users.  Reducing our impacts on water resources is not only the responsible and ethical thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. If we do not live up to our commitment to manage water responsibly, we know that it weakens our partnerships with governments and communities. That is why we must maintain strong water-management capabilities and risk-management practices everywhere we operate.

Our water use, through all stages of the mining life cycle, is guided by Barrick’s Water Management Framework. The Framework is designed to facilitate site-based water stewardship that brings value to the Company while protecting our people, our partners, and the environment.  

Priorities in 2018
  • Zero severe water-related environmental incidents.
  • Expand our digital water-monitoring program from Pascua and Veladero to other sites.
  • Automate our reporting to allow for continuous and consistent updates on water-related risks.
  • Develop a training framework for Barrick’s water-related functions.

Barrick’s Water Management Framework was introduced in early 2017 and will guide our water management strategy going forward. It is aligned with the ICMM Position Statement on Water Stewardship and is based on three pillars:

  • Assess: We first assess our water-related risks and water conservation opportunities through rigorous analysis. Water stewardship will be integrated into life-of-mine planning in a systematic way, factoring in considerations like the long-term water balance and cumulative impacts. We try to proactively identify water risks across the mine life cycle, and we put in place the right talent, the right plans and the right resources to effectively manage and mitigate these risks at all of our sites.
  • Assure: We responsibly manage water resources by updating our standards, guidelines, assurance reviews and audits to mitigate our risks and continuously improve our performance. Though every site has distinct characteristics and circumstances, these procedures provide consistency to our assessment and assurance processes. At its core, this follows a simple structure and each site must address a number of key considerations: what are your risks, what is your mitigation plan, what are your resources, how much will it cost to implement your plan, when will it be implemented, and what are the key milestones?
  • Collaboration: We engage continuously across our business to provide to all water-accountable people at Barrick the tools to share information, collaborate, innovate and build institutional knowledge. We will also engage continuously with other water users in our host countries and communities, and beyond, seeking their input and feedback on our plans and sharing information about how we use and manage water.

As part of Barrick’s digital transformation, the Company is working to implement technology to automate water monitoring and decision making, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our systems and improve transparency with our stakeholders. For example, since mid-2017, Barrick has been integrating digital weather forecasts into our site water models at our South American sites to help predict weather-related water risks in real time.

In 2017, we regret to report we had several environmental incidents related to water (described here).

Reducing water use

We utilize the “fit for use” principle to conserve fresh water by prioritizing the use of water with poor quality wherever possible instead of fresh water, and by recycling and reusing as much water as we can.

Water WithdrawlML (2017)  ? Barrick currently does not purposely harvest rainwater for its water supplies or track rainwater use. Barrick sites do not currently receive wastewater from other organizations.

ML of water withdrawn in 2017
of the water Barrick used was recycled in 2017

Water Quality

In order to safeguard and protect basin water resources, we must understand and report our water performance. All of our mines have established water-monitoring networks to monitor the quantity and quality of the basin water resources.

At some of our operations, water used for processing or encountered in mining is thoroughly treated and put back into the environment. This is done according to strict standards, and we continuously 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 the performance of our site water management systems, detect and act on any deviations, and pursue improvement opportunities.

Water Discharge

At some of our operations, water used for processing or encountered in mining is thoroughly treated and put back into the environment. In 2017, Barrick discharged 77 Mm3 of water back to the environment once it met water quality permit limits.


If water quality parameters were to exceed permissible limits, we would report it to the relevant government agencies as required by our permit or relevant regulations. Our management leadership teams and environmental specialists share monitoring data routinely with the appropriate local authorities at all our operations. We also invite and welcome local authorities and stakeholders to regularly inspect our mine and water-management facilities.

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

Water Conservation

Barrick operates in a number of arid and semi-arid regions where we preferentially use lower-quality brackish or saline water to meet our water needs. Using saline water also reduces costs and maximizes the availability of fresh water for other community users.

We utilize the “fit for use” principle to conserve fresh water by prioritizing the use of water with poor quality wherever possible instead of fresh water, and by recycling and reusing as much water as we can. An example of this is when a water outflow from one activity is used for another —such as wash-bay water being used for dust suppression following necessary treatment, or gold-laden processing water being stripped of the gold and then re-circulated back through the processing system. Barrick has made significant advances in metallurgical technologies for the gold and copper concentration process to reduce freshwater demand and reduce costs associated with water. We understand that fresh water is a valuable resource and only consume it when necessary for demands such as reagent mixing and domestic water supply. The majority of our water demand is met by brackish or recycled sources.

Access to water has been recognized as a right, integral to well-being and livelihoods and the spiritual and cultural practices of many communities. It is also essential to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide.”
— ICMM Position Statement on Water Stewardship

Barrick also engages and collaborates 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.

Managing Freshwater Use

Barrick operates in a number of arid and semi-arid regions where we preferentially use lower quality brackish or saline water to meet our water needs. Using saline water also reduces costs and maximizes the availability of fresh water for other community users.

Water Consumption Intensity ? Water consumption intensity includes water consumption at Barrick-operated sites per tonnes of ore processed at Barrick-operated sites. Water use at closure properties, projects or other ancillary properties is not included in the total intensity metric. KL per tonne of ore processed

Withdrawals ML

Water Risk

Barrick employs a variety of tools to assess water-related risks.

  • The Company applies the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Global Water Tool to identify high- and medium-risk sites at country level;
  • We plot our operations on the Global Monthly Water Scarcity map which is linked to the Water Footprint Network to assess stress at watershed level;
  • We evaluate social water risk using the WWF Water Risk Filter; and
  • We assess biodiversity water risk with IBAT4 (Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool) database.

In addition, Barrick’s Water Conservation Standard requires projects, operations, and closure sites to:

  1. Develop and implement a water management plan, identify key water risks and opportunities, and support water planning;
  2. Establish minimum criteria for monitoring, analysis, and reporting of water data;
  3. Establish a consistent approach for maintaining a sustainable site water balance; and
  4. Establish a consistent approach to conduct water management risk assessments annually, and to analyze community relations, and social and biodiversity information.

We also monitor regional or local drought conditions if applicable. For example, Barrick closely follows the National Integrated Drought Information System for Nevada, USA, as part of site level water risk analysis. We also look for any potential linkage to mine water usage.

Barrick’s Community Relations Standard requires all high-risk sites to complete annually a Social Risk Assessment based on Barrick’s Formal Risk Assessment Process. Sites with high social risks related to water are able to assess inherent risks, review the effectiveness of current controls, and develop additional controls if necessary. The Social Risk Assessment informs the Community Relations annual work plan, which is documented in a Site Social Management Plan. Outcomes from the Social Risk Assessment are reported to site and corporate senior management quarterly. High risks are also reported to the Board of Directors through the Community Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility Board Reports.

We also recognize that a wide range of supplies, from heavy equipment and tires to explosives and chemical agents, are needed for our operations. The production of these involves complex processes, various industries, and multi-level supply chains, all of which have requirements for good quality freshwater on which we are indirectly reliant. Recognizing this dependency, as part of our risk assessment process, we also assess our supply chain for water-related risks.


Transparency is the currency of trust, and integral to how we manage water. Our environmental specialists share monitoring data with appropriate regulators, and the mine’s water treatment facilities are inspected regularly by local authorities. We have also developed an internal, online water community which connects water-accountable people across the organization to share, collaborate, innovate, and build institutional knowledge and competency.

In 2016, Barrick introduced public, online live water monitoring at the Pascua-Lama project as part of our efforts to strengthen community trust at the site. Barrick also actively engages with local communities at six of our sites on water-related matters through community participatory water-monitoring programs and other forms of communication. In participatory monitoring, 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 in place to maintain water quality, and ultimately, help build trust with our partners who share this essential resource with us.

We also publish detailed Company-wide water data online and are long-time participants in the CDP’s annual Water Program. Barrick achieved a Leadership score of A– in our 2017 CDP Water response.

As part of its water initiative, the ICMM is developing a consistent and simple, yet robust, water reporting approach for the mining and metals industry based on the Mineral Council of Australia’s Water Accounting Framework. Barrick fully intends to report to this framework once it is complete.