This engagement guide is intended to function as a possible tool for asset managers for engagement with mining companies on water management. It aims to aid in the development of sustainable water management practices adhering to SMART principles (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound), leading to an environmentally and socially responsible site-level water management strategy. Using this guide, not all questions will be relevant for all mining companies; rather this guide is intended to be used as a supporting document of which most relevant questions can be selected.
This guide is a result of a joint working group on responsible mining by ACTIAM, Aegon Asset Management, NN Investment Management, Robeco, IUCN NL and VBDO. The joint group participants have been working on starting engagement with mining companies on pressing sustainability issues of which water management is one (the other two topics are Reclamation and Biodiversity). This engagement guide is based on multiple international standards and guidelines including IRMA, ICMM, IFC and the GRI.
Challenges in water management for mining companies
The mining industry faces several challenges when it comes to water management. Mines are often large local water users, which stresses the need for efficient water use. Their use of water can potentially enhance competition and conflict over the use of available water sources with other stakeholders. Impacts on water are highly location specific as they are influenced by the local and/or regional climate and local dependencies and uses, prompting the need for a tailored approach. As water scarcity has been assessed as one of the most pressing challenges for the future, this is a critical concern for many stakeholders. Additionally, surface water and groundwater contamination can be a source of stakeholder conflict and local opposition to mining operations. Prevention of contamination and transparency about this process is in the best interest of the company operating the mining site.
Deciding on engagement
Assess the company’s views on water and water management, including the materiality framework. How important is water and water management? What is being done and are there points in which to engage? The engagement process should clarify if and how water-related risks are on the company’s radar, and how it views water and water management in general on both a company and mine-site level. Ideally, the engagement process will enhance the company’s understanding of water-related risks and their importance and induce improvements to their water management.