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Water Stewardship

Water Stewardship

Access to water is a fundamental human right. However, almost a billion people globally live in countries with high and critical levels of water stress.

Water is also a vital input for many businesses, including mining, where from processing to dust suppression, it is used for a range of different tasks.

We have noted over recent years that competition for water resources between local communities and industry can create tension or even water shortages. At Barrick, each mine has its own site-specific water management plan, which consider the different water sources available, local climate conditions and the needs of local users and the mine. We include water risks in each mine’s operation risk register.

Our water management practices work towards easing tension and competition both in terms of water quality and availability. We take a watershed view where we recognize the importance of and seek to protect, and where possible enhance, access to clean water for other stakeholders, particularly the local community.

There are four central pillars to this approach:

  • Conserve and protect – the high-quality water resources wherever we operate. Where possible, we seek to use lower quality water first in our processes and identify areas throughout processing where we can reuse and recycle water.
  • Consider other users – we establish basin-wide water balances that consider impacts from climate change as well as the current and future demands of our operations and other users as well as areas that support key biodiversity features (KBFs).
  • Site wide balances, monitoring and management plans – each site has a detailed site water balance to track water flows and use by task, identify areas for efficiency or improvement and to ensure we don’t exceed our permitted thresholds for abstraction or discharge quality.
  • Honest and open disclosure – at the site level, we conduct participatory monitoring programs for our host communities to ensure community members know and understand the water quality and availability on the ground, and how we are managing our water use and potential impacts. Our water use and management performance is aligned with the requirements of the ICMM water reporting framework. Our water withdrawal, consumption and reuse recycle rates are detailed by site, region and at a company level in the GRI sheet (appended to this report) and summarized in this chapter.

We also invest to improve facilities and infrastructure both on site and in the communities where needed.

Access to water is also identified as one of our five key investment themes for community development and, wherever practicable, we work with our CDCs on projects to improve water supply for their communities. This includes the development of a pipeline from Lake Victoria with standpipes in local communities near our Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania and the construction of a water tower supplying 30,000 people in communities near to the North Mara mine in Tanzania with potable water. We have also established more than 100 community drinking fountains around Kibali in the DRC and work with the local authorities on water services agreements for communities in water scarce Northern Nevada.

With water-related hazards forecast to increase over the mid to long term, we consider this a fundamental responsibility of any modern mining company. Our full commitment to responsible water use is set out in our Environmental and Water policies while details regarding our governance of water related issues are set out on our website.

Access to Water

All our operations and any proposed project must undergo an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

ESIAs not only meet in-country environmental permitting requirements and legislation but also satisfy international best practices, such as the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards. ESIAs are undertaken by a team of multi-disciplinary independent specialists, who are experts in their respective fields.

The ESIAs include an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP), which includes mitigation and management requirements, as well as detailed monitoring programs that are determined by the independent specialists and put forward to the respective authorities for consideration during the permitting and decision-making process. The ESIA process also includes extensive stakeholder engagement and consultation, including baseline assessments, sharing of potential impacts, and inputs into the ESMP.

The specific audit requirements associated with each ESMP are determined by each of our host country’s respective legislation but generally include independent specialist oversight, regulatory body assessments and consistent and frequent submission of monitoring data. Barrick’s water quality testing is undertaken by third-party and independent laboratories. We monitor and measure any withdrawal and discharge through a variety of methods, including a combination of flow meters and the use of infrastructure design specifications. Water balances at each mine differentiate water source quality withdrawals (high quality or low quality) from each of the following sources: precipitation, surface water, groundwater, seawater, waste water and third-party water. To increase the specificity of our data, catchments specific parameters are included.

Our Water Sources and Exposure to Water Stress

Our Water Sources and Exposure to Water Stress

A Focus on Water-stressed Areas

Like everything we do, how we manage water is informed and driven by science on the ground.

From Northeast DRC, though Bamako, Mali, to Battle Mountain, Northern Nevada, our operations span a range of geographies and climatic conditions including areas prone or subject to water stress. For these areas, our site-specific management plans also consider the impacts of water stress. At all sites, we aim to firstly use low-quality water wherever practicable and we prioritize the reuse and recycling of water in our processes. For example, the area around our Jabal Sayid Copper mine in Saudi Arabia is considered to be water scarce. To lessen impacts on the limited local watershed, the mine uses water from a waste water facility and therefore does not impact local catchment water stress.

We regularly review our operations against our internal definition for water stress, which considers water abundance as well as water scarcity. The review uses tools such as the WWF Water Risk Filter to determine the potential impacts of each operation on their water catchment, as well as the potential risks to the business at an operational level.

The assessment also integrates each site’s water data including:

  • Source of supply.
  • Withdrawals and discharge.
  • Consumption and entrainment.
  • Rainfall and evaporation.

While water scarcity is perhaps easy to understand, water abundance and heavy rainfall can also create stress for operations, communities and catchments. This is due to the sheer volume of water these sites and regions must manage as a result of heavy rains and run- off. Our Kibali and Pueblo Viejo mines in the DRC and Dominican Republic respectively are situated in areas of water abundance. These mines either divert this water or temporarily store it as clean water to discharge back into the environment. Any rainwater that comes into contact with process areas (such as runoff through the plant) must meet required water quality discharge standards prior to being returned to the environment and undergoes treatment where necessary. A site like Pueblo Viejo also has downstream water demands to consider and must consider both discharge standards for quality and the volume releases to meet environmental and social demands.

Weathering the Storm at Pueblo Viejo

In November 2023, a one in 500-year storm event hit the Dominican Republic where our Pueblo Viejo mine is located.

The tropical storm brought with it high winds and more than 500mm of rain in just 24 hours, which resulted in significant flooding, destruction of bridges and road blockages around the country.

In the interests of safety, operations at Pueblo Viejo were suspended for 72 hours from November 17 as the storm made land. Fortunately, no injuries were recorded on the mine and no significant damage occurred, and any potential impact to the environment was quickly mitigated thanks to the swift action of the Pueblo Viejo emergency response team. Operations promptly resume once the storm subsided, reflecting the robustness of our emergency planning.

To help with clean up beyond the mine fence, members of the Pueblo Viejo team, and some of our contractors were deployed into neighbouring communities to assist and to help with the restoration and rehabilitation of roads. We also made cash and in-kind donations of building materials, fuel and non-perishable food.

Our Water Circuit

Our Water Circuit

Our Performance

In 2023, we reused or recycled 84% of all the water we used.

This equates to 613,107 Megaliters (ML) of water reused or recycled during 2023. Overall, we consumed 81,900ML of water during the year – that is water consumed through evaporation or entrainment. We achieved a water withdrawal intensity of 1.17ML and a consumed intensity of 0.54ML per tonne of ore processed. Entrainment in our TSFs account for approximately 25% of our consumptive use.

In total, we withdrew 170,996ML of water from the environment in 2023. Our largest source of withdrawals is precipitation and run-off at Kibali in the DRC, North Mara in Tanzania, and Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, followed by rivers and streams at Lumwana in Zambia. We also continued to focus on drawing down and using water stored on our TSFs.

During the year, we discharged 104,034ML, the bulk of which was to surface water bodies such as rivers and streams, primarily at Lumwana, Kibali, North Mara and Pueblo Viejo. Our discharges are strictly regulated and must meet water quality parameters and have regulated maximum volumes, and at some sites, such as Pueblo Viejo, we are required to discharge to meet a minimum threshold too.

The bulk of the water we discharge (55%), is high quality and suitable for agricultural or potable use.

Management approach: Water stewardship

Governance and accountability

Our President and CEO is ultimately responsible for environmental management with our Group Sustainability Executive taking the lead in driving the implementation of our environmental policies, the associated procedures and overall performance - including water stewardship.
The Group Sustainability Executive is supported by regional-level environmental leads as well as dedicated site-level environmental teams who drive implementation at the operational level.

Policies and procedures

Our commitment to responsible water use is codified in our Environmental Policy and our standalone Water Policy. These documents commit us to:

  • Conserve and protect high quality water resources in areas where we operate;
  • Maintain basin-wide water balances that consider the availability of water resources, impacts from climate change, and the current and future water demands of our operational needs and the needs of other stakeholders;
  • Develop and implement site-wide water quality monitoring programs and management plans; and
  • Disclose our water use and management performance in line with the guidance and requirements of the ICMM Water reporting framework.

Each mine has its own site-specific water management plan, which takes into account the different water sources available, local climate conditions and the needs of local users and the mine.  We include water risks in each mine’s operational risk register. Risks are then rolled up and incorporated into the Group Risk Register. Our identified water-related risks include:

  • Managing excess water in regions with high rainfall;
  • Maintaining access to water in arid areas and regions prone to water scarcity; and
  • Regulatory risks related to permitting limits as well as municipal and national regulations for water use.

Each month, every site reports on their water use to our Regional Sustainability Leads and the Group Sustainability Executive.

We also track how much water we recycle and reuse because it helps us to understand all the water that goes in and out of our sites. Ultimately, this enables us to identify ways we can withdraw less from external sources. We also incorporate the data into our scenario planning.

Exposure to water risk

Our assessment of water risks uses tools such as the WWF Water Risk Filter to determine the potential impacts of each operation on their water catchment, as well as the potential risks to the business at an operational level.  The assessment also integrates each site’s water data including: 

  • Source of supply;
  • Withdrawals and discharge;
  • Consumption and entrainment;
  • Rainfall and evaporation.

This assessment enables us to better understand and then manage the water risks faced by each site.   

For example, our Jabal Sayid mine in Saudi Arabia is in an area of water scarcity; however, the mine receives water from a third party supply from a wastewater facility that does not have an impact on catchment water stress, and is not seen to operate under stress or water risk.  Despite this, our site-specific management plans take particular care to account for reduced freshwater supply for local communities and ecosystems, including Jabal Sayid and other operations in regions identified as water scarce or vulnerable to water scarcity.  At these sites, we aim to use low-quality water wherever practicable, and we prioritise the reuse and recycling of water in our processes.

We also regard regions of water abundance and high rainfall, such as Kibali in the DRC, and Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, as water stressed.  This is due to the sheer volume of water these sites and regions have to manage as a result of heavy rains and run-off. These mines have to either divert this water or temporarily store it as clean water to discharge back into the environment.

Key targets and metrics

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