Managing water risk
It was little surprise that the World Economic Forum listed water crises as one of the top five global risks in terms of impact in 2016. For us, water is essential for life and essential to all parts of the gold mining business, and the management of water risk is a core part of our environmental system.
Four of our five operational mines are in areas vulnerable to water stress and drought, and securing access to fresh and clean water for our operations and host communities in these areas is the critical driver of our policy in this area. We track mean average rainfalls and assess evapotranspiration rates, to better understand the water risks for each site. For example at our Loulo-Gounkoto complex in Mali, 85% of annual rainfall occurs in just three months and evaporation levels exceed rainfall for nine months of the year. While in the DRC, where our Kibali mine operates, the country’s long rainy season means that evaporation only exceeds rainfall for three months during the area’s short dry season. Therefore our water risk management policies for Kibali include a focus on flood prevention as well as protection of water access and water quality.
Across all our mines the amount of freshwater that we abstract (both river and groundwater) is set by government and or regional water governance permits and we carefully monitor water usage both in and around the mines using a range of tools including ultrasonic flow meters, laser water-level readers at tailings dams and mapping across a network of local boreholes. The latter, for example, models cones of depression so we ensure ground water abstraction does not impact supply to boreholes in local villages. For example, in 2016 we began to see impact on boreholes in Tongon village, near our Tongon mine in the Côte d’Ivoire, at this stage these impacts are not concerning, however, we will closely monitor water levels in these boreholes during 2017, and shall take remedial action if necessary, to ensure village water access is not impacted.
BRINGING WATER CASE STUDY SECURITY
In Mali, an estimated four million people do not have access to safe drinking water which, before the construction of our mine at Gounkoto, included the residents of the village of Kunda in the west of Mali near the border with Senegal.
As there was no water infrastructure for the villagers at Kunda, the women of the village tended to walk approximately 7km to the nearest river to get fresh water. Just some of the dangers inherent in this trek included chemical run-off and contaminants from nearby gold washers and water-borne diseases. It also limited the ability of women in the village to earn an income or spend time caring for their children.
That is why water security has been a key priority for Gounkoto’s CDC in their allocation of funds to the village. With some help from Randgold engineers Kunda now have a network of boreholes and water wells in the village from which plentiful freshwater can be drawn.
To ensure the sustainability of water supply, Randgold also provides training in the maintenance of water wells so that villagers can fix any issues that occur.
Further to this, in 2017 we will be launching a partnership with international water NGO WaterAid, at our Loulo-Gounkoto complex. The aim of this partnership is to develop independent access to potable water by:
- Training local village water committees on the responsible management of local boreholes and water points.
- Ensuring local water use and discharge complies with local, regional and national regulations
Randgold will support WaterAid’s first year of operations near Loulo-Gounkoto and we hope this partnership will catalyse other water focused initiatives and funding for the region.