At Goldcorp, we recognize that our approach to water management is a significant concern shared by our company and our stakeholders. The world’s population growth will result in increased competition for resources, and to that end, the mining industry needs to continuously improve our stewardship of all the natural resources that support our operations.
Water is a valuable resource required in mining processes, and as one of the most important resources in the world, there is growing scrutiny of its use in all industrial applications, including mining. Our recently published 2017 Corporate Water Summary provides an overview of Goldcorp’s water stewardship: performance, context, challenges, and opportunities for our active operations during 2017. In line with Goldcorp’s membership to the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), we are committed to disclosing our company’s water performance in line with ICMM’s “A practical guide to consistent water reporting”.
In addition, Goldcorp’s H2Zero strategy aims to substantially reduce the company’s fresh-water consumption and ultimately move away from the use of traditional slurry tailings, currently the largest store of unavailable water in the mining process.
Our immediate goal is to reduce “high-calorie water” extraction from the environment which we define as water extraction beyond what is necessary for dewatering of our mines or the inadvertent capture of precipitation by the existing facility footprint. Ultimately, we will attempt to eliminate all “high-calorie water extraction” entirely at our operations.
The elimination of traditional, slurry tailings facilities is also a long-term goal of the H2Zero vision. A significant amount of water is “lost” each year in slurry tailings facilities, either through evaporation or due to the water that is trapped within the pore spaces of the tailings. The ongoing practice in the mining industry of managing slurry tailings facilities will continue to result in the need for mines to add or make up water back into the system and our view is that development of technology and improvements in this area merits focus. There are many other reasons to pursue the elimination of slurry tailings practices which are related to reduction of risk and liability at closure.
There are three tactical layers in our approach to reducing our water withdrawals: continuous improvement, breakthrough use of improved technology, and finally moonshot step-changes of our methods of mining, processing and depositing and managing tailings. This will be Goldcorp’s focus for the next ten years or more, depending on the rate of technology development.
Many continuous improvement efforts have been initiated in areas such as waste reduction (eg, reduced fresh water use), increased recycling (eg, truck wash recycling, process changes) and improved strategy.
While Goldcorp has immediately focused on the continuous improvement opportunities of our water management, it is important to pursue the breakthrough use of improved technology, as well as research into achieving our overall moonshot vision in parallel. We are focused on innovation and research in various areas including:
- Less or no water use during comminution
- Less or no water use in mineral extraction processes
- Less or no water use in dust control practices
- Reduction of dewatering water brought to surface
- Dewatering of tailings
We have defined and set some milestones to measure our progress over time, some of which have been disclosed in our recently released 2017 Sustainability Report and further information is available in our 2017 Corporate Water Summary. We anticipate these milestones will evolve over time as we see success, and also as we confront challenges.