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Water Management

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.

At Barrick, 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. This is not only the responsible and ethical thing to do, it 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.

Water is a precious shared resource with high social, cultural, environmental and economic value. Access to water has been recognised 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


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. It 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 long-term water balance and cumulative impacts. We try to proactively identify water risks across the mine lifecycle 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.

Water Management Framework

Barrick is fully committed to implementing the obligations outlined in the ICMM’s recently updated Water Stewardship Statement. These commitments include:

  • Applying strong and transparent water governance;
  • Managing water at operations effectively; and
  • Collaborating to achieve responsible and sustainable water use.


  • In 2016, Barrick developed a 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. It is being introduced in early 2017 and will guide our water management strategy going forward.
  • Barrick achieved a Leadership score of A- in our 2016 CDP Water response. The response details our actions to manage water and mitigate water risk.
  • In 2016, Barrick created the position of Vice President, Water Management to assist our projects, operations, and closed sites in putting in place the right talent, plans, and resources to effectively manage water-related risks, both current and emerging.
  • Barrick has water-monitoring programs with communities located near our operations in Peru, Argentina, Zambia, Canada and the Dominican Republic.
  • Following an incident at our Veladero mine in 2016 (described below), Barrick has made water management in South America a priority:
    • On September 8, 2016, ice rolling down the slope of the leach pad at Veladero damaged a pipe carrying process solution, causing some material to leave the leach pad. This material, primarily crushed ore saturated with process solution, was contained on the mine site and returned to the leach pad. Extensive water monitoring in the area conducted by the Company has confirmed that the incident did not result in any environmental impacts. For further information on this incident and the incidents at Veladero in 2015 and 2017, see here.

Priorities in 2017

  • Zero severe water-related environmental incidents.
  • Digital transformation. Barrick will continue to implement technology to automate water monitoring and decision making, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our systems, and improve transparency with our stakeholders. As our digital transformation progresses, we plan to expand our digital water-monitoring program from Pascua to other sites; we believe this is the level of transparency that our partners expect.
  • Update standards. A key element of the water-management framework will be to revise our Water Conservation Standard to bring clarity to water-related requirements and align the requirements with the framework and current global water standards. As part of this effort, we will build guidelines to support our updated Water Conservation Standard that guides sites as to how water resources should be characterized, managed, and reported.
  • Integrate water resource planning in our business planning process. As part of these efforts, we will develop a risk-screening tool that can be used for each site to assess major risks and critical controls. We will then work with the sites to digitize these critical processes.
  • Develop internal metrics to track Barrick’s performance benchmarked against industry peers. We will then define key performance metrics to drive internal performance.
  • Develop an internal water community within Barrick. We will connect water-accountable Barrick people across the organization to share, collaborate, innovate, and build institutional knowledge and competency.

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 groundwater and surface waterways downstream to confirm that negative impacts on the local environment have been minimized by our mitigations.

As part of the mine closure plan at Pierina, the site constructed water treatment plants and a large sedimentation pond to safeguard water resources downstream.

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.

In 2016, Barrick discharged 65.306 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, which can be a serious problem for farmers and ranchers in arid areas.

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 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 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.

Approximately 78% of the water Barrick used was recycled in 2016.

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. For example, through public-private partnerships, Barrick has supported the construction of 41 aqueducts, which are increasing water access for about 12,000 people in 26 communities near Barrick's Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic.

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 water, brackish water or treated sewage 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. The process is being used at the Jabal Sayid JV.

Water Risk

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

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 annually complete 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 Report.

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 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. 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.

In 2016, Barrick introduced live water monitoring at the Pascua project as part of our efforts to strengthen community trust at the site.

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, 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.

At Pueblo Viejo, Barrick has conducted 20 participatory environmental monitoring sessions with the local community since the program began.