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 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:
We manage water-related risks, minimise impacts and operate efficiently by:
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.
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.
Highlights of our water management efficiency, mitigation, maintenance and conservation measures included:
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|
|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|
|*||Includes ECC assets in 2020 and 2021.|
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|
|Durnacol||Durnacol dam no 4||Durnacol dam no 7 Langley dam no 2 Langley dam no 3|
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.