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Water availability and quality

Scarcity of water is a significant risk not only to the communities in which we work, but also to food production, biodiversity and the continuity of our production.

In 2016, more than 96 per cent of the carats we mined were from water scarce regions in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Recent drought, growing demand and the likely impact of climate change make water a significant risk in these areas.

And, as a signatory to the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, we have a key water stewardship role with a commitment to action on water policy, management and performance.

As a result, we have set targets to cut our water use by 20 per cent by 2020. And, in 2016, we saved about 0.3 billion litres of water across our operations.

Our Venetia mine in South Africa and the Orapa and Jwaneng mines in Botswana account for 81 per cent of our water usage, making them the focus for our efforts to reduce consumption. We have completed water efficiency and security reviews at all three mines. The reviews considered options for improving efficiency up to 2020 and for reducing water risk up to 2025.

At Venetia, we concentrated on the two most significant climate change threats to the mine: reduced water availability and flooding caused by extreme weather. As a result, during 2016 we completed design work on three pollution control dams that will reduce the risk of flooding at the mine. We also continued our wastewater recycling projects at our mines, with a particular focus on reusing water in our processing plants and proactively managing storm water.

To raise awareness of water scarcity beyond our own operations, we ran a campaign in 2016 designed to help employees and their families use water wisely and reduce wastage. This involved
tips on the ‘three Rs’ of water conservation: reduce, reuse and repair.

We also completed an engagement project at one of the wellfields feeding the Orapa mine, which used traditional knowledge to map boreholes and water levels. We explained to local farmers how we would be using local water supplies and to encourage communities to work with us on water monitoring.

Another example of where we looked to tackle water shortages beyond our own operations during 2016 was the launch of Element Six’s innovative wastewater treatment system Diamox, which uses synthetic diamonds to purify highly contaminated wastewater without the need for chemicals.