Assessing Water-Related Risks in the Mining Sector

As populations, economies and global per capita consumption continue to grow, so does the need for raw materials. Mining activity will need to increase to meet these growing demands. At the same time, water availability and poor water quality are increasingly emerging as global risks for many industries, especially in arid and densely populated regions, and the mining sector is no exception. Because of the long-term and potentially irreversible impacts of mineral extraction on land and water resources, the mining sector faces increasing scrutiny from citizens, local and national governments, and civil society organizations.

As part of a 3-year grant from Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), CCSI is working with the Columbia Water Center to develop and benchmark a modeling platform for quantitatively assessing environmental risks associated with mining and their financial implications, as part of a rigorous analysis of investment for sustainable development.

For this project, CCSI has been conducting a comparative review of the legal and regulatory frameworks governing the use and discharge of water by the copper and gold mining sectors in a selected sample of resource rich jurisdictions, including Chile, China, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Australia (Western Australia), United States (Federal, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada), and Canada (British Columbia).

The profiles are intended as a useful resource for policy makers, researchers and civil society groups seeking to understand and compare how water issues are regulated in the hard rock mining sector in their jurisdictions.

CCSI welcomes comments and corrections on these profiles from practitioners in the reviewed jurisdictions, including with respect to any omissions.

As part of this project, CCSI organized an event for institutional investors to discuss water related risks from an investor perspective in September 2016 (see background brief here) and co-submitted a letter to the SEC to comment on the modernization of property disclosures for mining companies.

CCSI has also developed a framework to approach the shared use of water and water infrastructure, among other types of infrastructure, after conducting a worldwide survey of related case studies. Research papers on shared use in the context of other types of infrastructure are posted here.