Water reporting

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Water is fundamental to life. It is a critical resource not only for all our members' operations but also for other industries, communities and the natural environment. It is therefore one of the most significant issues facing the mining and metals industry. With competition for water continuing to grow, water dependent industries are facing increasingly intense scrutiny, particularly when operating in water stressed areas.

Globally, there is a clear call for greater transparency and disclosure on water use and management. This is especially true for the mining and metals industry, considering its high water dependency and potential to impact water resources.

Already investors, regulators and civil society are seeking greater insights into mining companies' water management practices and risk exposure. And while many mining and metals companies are able to measure, monitor and report on water use, this reporting is often inconsistent.

ICMM recognises that the mining and metals industry needs to do more to meet these disclosure expectations, on aspects such as ensuring comparability among companies within the sector, data on wastewater discharge and recycling, and providing a more comprehensive picture of the risks and opportunities for the industry.

What is corporate water reporting?

Corporate water reporting is the external disclosure of information describing a company’s water management performance, risk-opportunity exposure and strategic response. This provides an essential information base for informed decision making by a wide range of stakeholders, both internal (eg corporate/operational managers and site operators) and external (eg investors, government/regulators, collective action groups, civil society and communities).

Concerns over global water availability and associated management challenges are increasing. In response, there has been a growing call over recent years for corporate water transparency – which is a key component of water stewardship and fundamental to the sustainable management of a shared resource. Hence, corporate water reporting is now standard practice across many sectors and particularly important for those with high exposure to water related risks12including amongst others, mining and metals, agriculture, chemicals, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, water utilities and services.

A number of disclosure systems have been developed by different stakeholder groups to facilitate cross-sector reporting of key water related information. In general, there is a good level of alignment between the core elements of these main disclosure systems, which produce comprehensive and detailed responses.

Why develop consistent water reporting for the mining and metals industry?

Corporate water disclosure is particularly important for the mining and metals industry, because the sector typically has a high level of water dependency. For example, the need for dewatering to access ore reserves; or high water supply demands for ore processing, transportation and/or dust suppression purposes. In addition, the locations of mining activities are determined by orebody occurrence rather than choice, hence it is rarely viable to relocate mining activities away from water stressed areas. These factors contribute to the sector having a high overall level of exposure to water risks and an identified need for greater transparency around reporting water performance and risk management.

As a result, all International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) member companies report to at least one of the main disclosure systems and many report to two or more. However, there remains a lack of consistency in the availability and quality of corporate water information available for external performance monitoring and benchmarking. This has been identified as a common issue across multiple sectors and is not unique to the mining and metals industry. Many factors contribute to this situation. Firstly, whilst reporting to the main disclosure systems has strong benefits, the systems, including water metrics, have been developed for cross-sector use and do not fully capture and/or succinctly articulate the industry’s key water practices and risks. Secondly, despite strong alignment between the main disclosure systems, differences remain in the choice and definitions of the key water metrics used. Thirdly, the significant challenge presented in concisely capturing the diverse and complex range of water management practices and risk-opportunity exposure levels inherent across a diversified global portfolio in a simple report.

In response, ICMM has consulted with the industry to develop a framework for achieving simple, consistent, transparent and material corporate water reports, using key elements of existing water disclosure and accounting systems – as outlined in ICMM's 'A practical guide to consistent water reporting'.

This directly supports the implementation of ICMM’s position statement on water stewardship which commits ICMM member companies to publicly report company water performance, material risks, opportunities and management response using consistent industry metrics and recognised approaches.

It also aligns with the first strategic imperative of ICMM’s 'Water stewardship framework' – to be transparent and accountable through public reporting of water risks, management activities and performance.

A Practical Guide to Consistent Water Reporting

ICMM has developed guidance and a minimum disclosure standard to support the industry in making consistent, transparent and material water reports; based on key elements of existing disclosure and accounting systems. Through quantifiable reporting of industry’s water footprint and disclosure of material risks and water management plans, mining and metals companies are better able to meet the information needs of different stakeholders, including company and external decision makers.

This guide is focussed on:

Leadership on water stewardship is required from all parts of society and our members are required to apply strong and transparent water governance, manage water in operations effectively and collaborate to achieve shared water benefits. This includes, among other elements,  the public reporting of water performance using consistent industry metrics.

We encourage the adoption of this approach by the broader industry as a way to provide meaningful information that supports better water use, effective catchment management and to contribute to overall improved water security and sanitation for all.

The guide is also available in Spanish.