Water Supply and Management


We recognize the importance of responsibly managing water resources across the portfolio of mining operations in both arid and wet regions. Our mining operations require significant quantities of water for mining and ore processing, and most of our operations in North and South America are in arid regions.

We used approximately 1,460 million cubic meters of water in our operating processes in 2015, of which approximately 80 percent was recycled water. The majority of our recycled water originates from reclaimed water capture at tailings storage facilities and leach pads. Mining operations in arid regions use operational-based water models to understand water use, recycling opportunities and operational losses such as evaporation. Through this process we have identified additional operational practices where recycled water is being used that was not quantified in prior reporting, which in turn has contributed to the overall increase in percentage of total recycled water use.

The company maintains a global water management program designed to (1) support metal production by supplying required water to process operations; (2) minimize water supply and water storage risks associated with operational, climatic, social, regulatory and environmental conditions; (3) minimize costs associated with the acquisition and distribution of water; (4) promote innovation and implement technology for efficient water usage. Operational water teams, who are supported by corporate technical experts, work toward completing operation specific goals by identifying and managing resources; communicating and coordinating with key stakeholders; monitoring, managing and analyzing water data; reporting and accounting for water use and consumption; and developing forecasting tools to support future conditions and closure. Although the potential physical impacts of climate change on our operations are highly uncertain, operations in arid regions also conduct annual scenario planning to evaluate hypothetical reductions in total water availability and hypothetical extreme precipitation events. Our water management includes identifying actions to help us adapt our operations to possible water shortages or surpluses.

In Peru and Chile, communities have protested mining projects because of concerns about competition for scarce water resources. With local support, we are pleased to now have achieved full capacity operating rates at the major expansion of our Cerro Verde copper mining operation near Arequipa – Peru’s second largest city. With a lack of adequate wastewater treatment infrastructure in the city, Cerro Verde financed the design and construction of one of the most advanced wastewater collection system and treatment plants (WWTP) in the country through a public/private partnership. The WWTP is designed to treat approximately 90 percent of Arequipa’s domestic sewage and industrial discharges that previously reported directly into the Rio Chili. Cerro Verde will now use an annual average of 1 cubic meter per second of the treated wastewater from the WWTP to support additional ore processing.

During 2015, the company continued to store renewable surface water supplies at underground recharge facilities within Arizona for future use in support of existing mine operations, drought backup or to support future mine expansions. The company also entered into an agreement with farmers in southern Arizona to build a pipeline to bring renewable Colorado River water to farm fields reducing the farmer’s dependence on groundwater while at the same time providing the company with future renewable water supply credits. Additionally, the company, in conjunction with the Bureau of Reclamation, is nearing completion of an environmental study that will allow the company’s Miami operation to carry out a water exchange in 2017 resulting in the operation’s utilization of renewable water supplies.