Anglo American is committed to conserving water in its mining operations and collaborating with local communities to develop efficient water-management methods. For more than a decade, Chile has faced a severe drought. Conscious of the challenges facing these rural communities, Anglo American created the Programa Agua Rural, or Rural Water Program, to apply its water management research and technology to finding a solution for more than 100,000 people living in these regions.
UNDERSTANDING THE WATER PROBLEM
Recognizing the impact of the drought on populations near Anglo American’s mining sites, Anglo American commissioned a hydrogeology study in 2017 to better understand the groundwater sources, water availability and local infrastructure, which included an examination of wells, reservoirs, irrigation and drinking water systems. In addition to the study, Anglo American conducted a door-to-door census to better understand local perceptions of the water supply.
As a result of the study, the company determined that while there was limited water available, the challenge was a lack of efficient water management and water distribution.
A LOCAL, SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION
Anglo American developed a collaborative, multi-faceted strategy to address water management and distribution issues. To provide sustainable and local solutions, the company’s strategy is based on three pillars: technological innovation, integration with community and infrastructure development.
Digital Water Management and Infrastructure Upgrades
Identifying the need to employ smart monitoring systems, Anglo American has partnered with We-Tech, a local Chilean company, to deploy Internet of Things (IOT) technologies to enable automated and remote water monitoring. The technology upgrades allow local managers to monitor and automate diagnostic tasks to better optimize the water use. To make these systems accessible and intuitive, the software facilitates working remotely and managing systems from a cell phone.
“We have everything on our own phones. Each leader—the administrator—we are all remotely managing the level of the pond, and we never run out of water.” – Luis Parada, President Rural Water Program (APR) Batuco Santa Sara de Lampa
The remote watering systems also help prevent water disruption. In the case of service interference or power outages, administrators receive multiple warnings via automated emails and phone notifications, so issues can be solved before they happen. Telemetric monitoring technology has enabled local communities to remotely monitor current water levels, saving time and resources for local personnel.
“For us, it has been a very big change. Before, if I had to know how much water was left, I had to go to the pond, which involved climbing the hill and pulling a string to know how much water we had. Now with telemetry, I don’t have to.” – Juana Navarrete, President of the Rural Water Program (APR) Los Caleos de Nogales
To complement the technological improvements, Anglo American is working with local communities to upgrade the wider water infrastructure. This is an ongoing process in which infrastructure upgrades will be made based on data acquired from the diagnostic monitoring. Several advancements have already been made, including clearing wells to increase water flow. In El Soldado’s neighboring town of Collagüe, through a partnership with the Municipality of Nogales, Anglo American has invested approximately $650,000 to deliver drinking water to a community that has not had a regular supply of potable water for the past two decades.
“The well is 60 meters [197 feet] long, but the problem was that it was packed. It had 11 meters [36 feet] packed. Then, the flow of water it gave me was half a liter per second. Now it’s giving me between 3.5 to 4 liters per second. At the moment, we have a good flow. We are even starting to bring water—which before we could not do—to people who had not had water for years who now have it.” – Ivan Rojas, Rural Water Program (APR) Operator Technician, Parceleros El Melón de Nogales
In Los Bronces, El Soldado and Chagres, the metrics are monitored every three months. By December 2020, Anglo American’s digital solutions increased water availability by 20 percent, decreased water pipe ruptures by 50 percent and demonstrated energy savings of 20 percent.
Water Solutions Through Community Integration
Anglo American’s rural water program develops local committees to address the water management and conservation. Through these committees, local administrators are provided with the tools and data to solve local water challenges. Beginning in Colina, there are now more than 62 individual programs in four provinces of the Metropolitan and Valparaíso regions: Chacabuco, Los Andes, Quillota and San Felipe. The work of these committees has reduced the breakage of equipment, improved the rate of water flow and provided greater availability of water fit for human consumption.
“We, as APR [Rural Water Program], started with 120 people. Today, we are 440 people, and there are about 100 more who are asking for water feasibility.” – Luis Fernando Rojas, President of Rural Water Program (APR) La Peña, Nogales
In 2020, Anglo American worked with Compromiso País, an initiative by the Presidency of Chile to involve the private sector in solving the country’s challenges. The company is working with the government to make the rural water program a matter of public policy. Through collaboration with the public sector, Anglo American is working to scale implementation of their tested solutions beyond their site-connected communities to address the nation-wide water crisis.
Anglo American will continue to work with its rural water program. The projects in Los Bronces, El Soldado and Chagres have no end date, and they will remain available to these communities in the future. Anglo American has already committed to continued funding of the data plan until July 2023 and is working with local public bodies to ensure the implementation is deployed across rural Chile as a matter of public policy.
About Anglo American
Anglo American is a leading global mining company and our products are the essential ingredients in almost every aspect of modern life. Our portfolio of world-class competitive operations, with a broad range of future development options, provides many of the future-enabling metals and minerals for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable world and that meet the fast growing every day demands of billions of consumers. With our people at the heart of our business, we use innovative practices and the latest technologies to discover new resources and to mine, process, move and market our products to our customers – safely and sustainably.
As a responsible producer of diamonds (through De Beers), copper, platinum group metals, premium quality iron ore and metallurgical coal for steelmaking, and nickel – with crop nutrients in development – we are committed to being carbon neutral across our operations by 2040. More broadly, our Sustainable Mining Plan commits us to a series of stretching goals to ensure we work towards a healthy environment, creating thriving communities and building trust as a corporate leader. We work together with our business partners and diverse stakeholders to unlock enduring value from precious natural resources for the benefit of the communities and countries in which we operate, for society as a whole, and for our shareholders. Anglo American is re-imagining mining to improve people’s lives.
About the Copper Alliance®
The Copper Alliance is a network of regional copper centers and their industry-leading members. It is responsible for guiding policy and strategy and for funding international initiatives and promotional activities. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization has offices in three primary regions: Europe, Asia, and North America. The Copper Alliance has partnerships and programs in more than 100 countries.