Exxaro Resources Limited
Environmental, social and governance report 2022

Water security management

We understand that water security is our capacity to safeguard sustainable access to sufficient, acceptable quality water. By proactively identifying risks and planning solutions, we sustain communities, protect the environment from water-related pollution and disasters, and stabilise crucial ecosystems.

Water security management is a critical component of our overall operational and environmental management as we are sensitive to South Africa's water scarcity and the effects of climate change, particularly increased temperatures and rainfall variability.

Our approach

Our water management policy is supported by our group water strategy, which aims for excellent compliance with policies, standards and processes, stakeholder partnerships and technologies for operational water efficiency. Our water-related consumption and intensity targets are linked to our group-wide STI scheme to deliver on our Climate Change Response strategy and overarching Sustainable Growth and Impact strategy.

Our policy delivers on these strategies by guiding our integrated water and waste management plan for the current and future operations – from planning to construction, operation, decommissioning, closure and rehabilitation. We implement this policy through our water management standard, which covers mining and industrial water use, water authorisations and site-specific water management plans including:

  • Water-related risk assessments
  • Water conservation and demand management
  • Stormwater controls
  • Security of supply
  • Water monitoring
  • Water balance simulations

We manage water-related risks, minimise impacts and operate efficiently by:

  • Reducing, reusing and recycling water in line with water conservation plans that support the National Water Resource Strategy
  • Providing suitable barriers to our dirty water facilities that prevent groundwater contamination
  • Committing to protecting and improving water quality by discharging treated water at our operations through reverse osmosis and/or sewage treatment plants

At Matla, we use reverse osmosis to treat contaminated process water to potable standards and treat sewage effluent in two plants before it is discharged into the environment.

We collaborate with other mining houses and universities through the Coaltech research initiative in projects that guide sustainable mine water management and mine closure for accurate final land use planning. The Mine Water Coordinating Body strengthens our public-private collaboration with a platform to collaborate on mine closure objectives that align with regional mine water solutions and community needs.

We also engage with other stakeholders in the catchment area to collectively manage water use. Without controlled efforts to maintain water security, we risk production stoppages, financial loss and non-compliance with WULs. The consequences could impact our licence to operate, increase competition for scarce resources, limit investment opportunities and damage our biodiversity efforts.

Cennergi's windfarms use licensed boreholes and rainwater. Employees and contractors drink plastic bottled water at operations.

Accountability and responsibility

Sustainability managers, supported by the water team and on-site environmental specialists, led by the executive head: sustainability, oversee policy implementation and practice at the operations.

The facility site manager supported by the head: corporate and social responsibility oversee policy implementation and practice at wind energy facilities.

How we performed

Highlights of our water management efficiency, mitigation, maintenance and conservation measures included:

  • Financial approval of Grootegeluk's Oliphantskop dam refurbishment project to be implemented in 2023/2024 (enhancing water recycling at the beneficiation plants to prevent process water losses to the pit, and reducing electricity consumption due to pumping and water quality deterioration in the pit)
  • Recalibrating Belfast water balance while investigating a potential water treatment plant to reduce hydraulic load caused by heavy rains over the past three years
  • Completion of the Matla new mine 1 pollution control dam linked to the Matla reverse osmosis plant
  • Improved operation and maintenance of sewage treatment plants at Matla shafts 2 and 3
  • Improving dirty and clean water separation, and preventing groundwater contamination with improved waste management at operations

High rainfall had a negative impact on mining conditions although this mitigated the short-term risk of water shortages.

Total water consumption (water withdrawals less water discharged) increased by 0.6% (normalised) and water efficiency increased by 0.5% due to increased consumption at our Matla operation with the new box cut construction.

Water withdrawal and discharge (ML) 2022 2021 2020
Total water withdrawal 11 486 10 890 11 798
Surface water 8 602 8 165 8 877
Groundwater 1 408 1 312 1 368
Third-party water 1 476 1 413 1 553
Total water discharged 1 068 609 874
Water consumption 10 419 10 281 10 924

Our water intensity targets align with industry norms and site-specific conditions. The 180L/t RoM target is well below the coal industry average of 380L/t RoM. This supports our strategy to reduce water intake and support the DWS's objectives to increase water conservation and reclamation.

  Water intensity (L/t RoM) Water consumption (m3)
Target (L/t RoM) 2022 2021 2020 2022 2021 2020
Belfast 250 232 237 132 612 115 654 132 416 628
Leeuwpan 100 40 27 38 148 466 106 380 228 085
Matla 230 200 190 190 1 231 293 1 120 930 1 168 683
Grootegeluk 170 148 149 150 8 344 744 7 681 560 8 198 145
Tshikondeni 79 176kL n/a n/a n/a 74 532
FerroAlloys 21 000kL n/a n/a n/a 7 205 15 175 14 494
Hlobane 432kL n/a n/a n/a 410
Total group* 180 150 149 137 10 418 765 10 280 828 10 923 823
* Includes ECC assets in 2020 and 2021.

Our water recycling target of 38% overall water recycling ratio (defined as the total water recycled divided by total water used including recycled water) is substantially higher than the coal industry average of 6%, as outlined in the national water use efficiency benchmarks of the DWS. In 2022, we exceeded our target with an overall recycling ratio of 47%. 

Water recycling ratio (%) 2022 2021 2020
Grootegeluk 47 43 40
Matla 50 42 44
Leeuwpan (estimated) 30 30 30
Belfast 38 28 38
Group total* 47 46 45
* Includes ECC assets in 2020 and 2021.


Tailings storage facilities and dams

Our tailings management system focuses on operation, monitoring and decommissioning of tailings dams. It uses comprehensive risk-based management and governance systems in line with internationally recognised good practice. Exxaro aims to align tailings management with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.

Our dam assets contain clean or polluted water. According to South African dam safety legislation, dams with a wall height exceeding 5m and capacity exceeding 50 000m3 are considered a safety risk. Classified dams are categorised as I, II or III according to risk potential. Category III has the highest hazard potential.

The table below shows dams with a safety risk, as classified by DWS.

  Category I Category II
Matla Brine ponds
Grootegeluk Cyclic ponds
Leeuwpan Witklip dam
Durnacol Durnacol dam no 4 Durnacol dam no 7 Langley dam no 2 Langley dam no 3
Tshikondeni Unwa dam

Future focus

While we continue our efforts to improve water efficiency through various infrastructure projects and enhancements, we will set an internal water price in 2023 to fully understand the actual cost of water versus the current cost to adequately address scarcity and quality concerns.

Case study: Water management in the face of climate change

We are adapting our water management practices to prepare for the uncertainty of a changing climate. The uncertainty cascades from the type of emission scenario and how that will influence temperature, rainfall distribution and intensity as we navigate an uncertain future.

We use downscaling techniques to assess hydrological variables from different available global circulation models. We incorporate these changes into our stochastic rainfall models used in forecasting water balance. These models are then used to predict flooding events, evaluate storage potential, assess infrastructure shortcomings and evaluate changes in water resource availability.

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Appendix A: Criteria