Water: Improving our management of this precious resource

Water is a key requirement for our operations, essential to both mining and processing as well as our mining camps. With water shortages and droughts affecting several jurisdictions where we operate, management of the resource becomes ever more important.

At a recent workshop in Toronto organized by Dean Williams, Vice President of Environmental Affairs, environmental teams from all our sites met to discuss water issues and strategies in their respective locations.

“While we have made important improvements in our water management and understanding of water value at each of our operations, there is more to do. Further improvements in our planning, monitoring, predictive water balances and water consumption must be achieved if we are to maintain our license to operate in an increasingly water-precious world,” says Dean.

Two years ago, a company-wide program was launched to focus on water management and conservation. As a first step, each site determined the value of water by looking at the environmental impact of water extraction, the cost of supply and discharge treatment, the risks associated with availability and meeting water quality limits, and stakeholder concerns regarding water.  Sites then developed their management strategies in line with water values. Since then, sites have also been reporting quarterly on their water consumption.

The recent conference in Toronto was the first opportunity for all those involved to get together face to face, and compare notes. Each site was asked to create a poster illustrating their water management strategy, the challenges they face, and their early progress and learnings.

These vary greatly. Both Chile and Brazil have experienced drought in recent years, which has impacted the availability of water and hydro-electric power. Our mine at Paracatu recently signed a water-saving pact with the state of Minas Gerais, where levels in local reservoirs are at 30% of normal capacity.  Additionally, the mine has made a number of efficiency improvements to reduce water consumption.  Working with a local NGO and farmers the mine has invested in maintaining and restoring nearby springs. Paracatu also launched a public awareness campaign about the importance of water conservation.

In Northern Chile, home of our Maricunga mine, an eight year drought has underscored the importance of water management. Our water source at Maricunga is a closed basin, unused by the public, that contains unique flora and fauna. Since we began pumping, monitoring has shown changes in groundwater levels and we have observed the sensitivity of wetlands to changes in water levels.  We have worked with authorities to implement remediation measures to counter observed changes in a wetland close to our wells. Already our most water efficient operation, further improvements by Maricunga over the past two years have reduced water withdrawals by 12 percent even while ore processing has increased.

In Ghana, approximately 70 percent of the water used by Chirano comes from recycling.  In arid Mauritania, our Tasiast mine relies solely on a brackish aquifer, unsuitable for irrigation or human consumption. Tasiast has made good progress improving its management of the groundwater aquifer to extend the period we can use this aquifer while ensuring that our pumping results in no impacts on adjacent freshwater aquifers. 

Dean says the next steps in Kinross’ water strategy include increasing employee engagement in water management and reaching out to stakeholders beyond our operations to inform them of our efforts and encourage more responsible water use in the community at large. 

Water testing near our Paracatu mine in Brazil 

Camels drinking at a well near our Tasiast mine in Mauritania

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