Business: Anglo American Commits to Water Stewardship
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Against a backdrop of climate change, water scarcity and increasing environmental pressures, and with operations in some of the driest parts of the world, Anglo American is using Water Week as a platform to highlight the responsibilities corporate global citizens have to our natural resources.
An audit conducted in 2007 concluded that Anglo American’s operations made use of 251 million cubic metres of water in that year, prompting an internal water summit aimed at raising awareness of the issue and improving their water stewardship.
A keynote speech delivered by Group CEO Cynthia Carroll at that event clearly defined Anglo American’s resolution to become creative and technically innovative to improve water use efficiency and to manage water more wisely, while taking into account neighbouring communities and other water users.
This theme resonates strongly with that of 2009’s National Water Week theme - “Water is life – securing the nation’s needs across the generations.” Several critical projects, stemming from the Group’s water strategy, are already underway. At Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen Mine, a region in which average annual evaporation is five times greater than the yearly rainfall, enlarging the capacity of feed pipes from the sewage treatment plant is increasing the mine’s water recycling capability. In addition, harvesting storm water off roofs and from surface runoffs has become common practise.
Demonstrating water stewardship, Anglo Coal South Africa has installed water treatment plants to neutralise acid mine water and desalinate mine water to produce drinking water for communities. The eMalahleni water reclamation plant purifies 25 megalitres of water to potable quality every day. Of this 18 megalitres is supplied to the eMalahleni local municipality, which has for years struggled to meet the water demands of the fast-growing Witbank area. All of Anglo Coal in South Africa’s Greenside, Landau and Kleinkopje collieries, as well as the company’s shared service department’s water needs, are met by the plant. Computer software models of water balances have been developed for Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine, Anglo Platinum’s Amandabult mine and Anglo Coal South Africa by Anglo Technical Division and specialist consultants.
In a $27 million project at the Mogalakwena platinum mine in Limpopo, Anglo Platinum funded a new water pipeline to ensure a reliable water supply to neighbouring communities, together with enhancements to the municipal sewage treatment works. Anglo Platinum now uses the treated effluent from the treatment works for mining purposes.
“There is increasing opposition to new mining projects because of the potential impacts on water resources. Increasingly, water scarcity is becoming more acute around the world as water use and competition for the same water resource increases,” comments Peter Coombes, Head of Environment at Anglo American. “As such, we believe that we have an obligation to being the partner of choice in terms of water management. This is to be achieved through the application of international best practice and it requires operations to go beyond mere compliance.
“Anglo American has an ultimate goal of zero discharge of polluted water, as preserving water resources are crucial to the continued existence and expansion of our industry.”
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