Water Management

Water is a precious resource for the environment, local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and our mines. We understand the critical importance of responsible water use and take every possible step to avoid negatively impacting water quality.

With the exception of Rainy River, all of our operating mines are located in arid or semi-arid regions. Our mines use water from a variety of sources, including groundwater as is the case at Mesquite and Cerro San Pedro, and surface water, as is the case at New Afton and Rainy River. New Afton is supplied from Kamloops Lake and Rainy River sources water mostly from intercepted surface and groundwater but also takes some of its allocation from the Pinewood River.

Description of Impacts

Water Use: Almost all of the water used at our sites is associated with the processing of ore. We also require water for drilling and for dust control on mine haul roads, and use dust suppressants to minimize evaporative loss.

Water Quality: With exception of Rainy River, New Gold’s operating mines are zero discharge facilities, with no process water being released to the surrounding environment. Rainy River has a comprehensive water balance and water quality model which enables decisions to be made that ensure that contact water will be stored and treated to the allowable quality before discharge.

Management Approach

At each site, we make significant efforts to minimize water consumption, including adopting efficient designs and technologies to reuse and recycle water wherever possible. All process water used at our mine sites is contained in a closed circuit. Other than evaporation from leach pads or from tailings storage facilities, water is reused until it becomes tailings. At Peak Mines, we have used “thickened tailings” – a method using less water than traditional lower density tailings deposition. At Mesquite and Cerro San Pedro, the process solution is recycled and reused on the heap leach pads. At New Afton, water is recycled through the tailings facility and reused in processing. Tailings are stored at tailings storage facilities and further information on tailings management is discussed in the waste management section.

Our approach to water stewardship is codified in our Water Stewardship Standard, which New Gold developed based on the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard. The AWS Standard is a global standard that outlines expectations for companies seeking to adopt responsible water practices. In alignment with the AWS Standard, the New Gold Water Stewardship Standard requires a detailed water balance to be created and maintained by each of our sites. A water balance is a model that describes how and where water comes onto each site (such as rainwater, groundwater seeping into pits, and piped water from surface and groundwater sources), how the water is used or managed on the site, and where it goes if/when it leaves the site. By working to understand these aspects of water at each site, we can better identify what our water management and efficiency efforts should be focused on. All sites completed their own action plan based on a gap analysis against our Water Stewardship Standard in 2015 and are working towards A-Level for all indicators. The A-Level of the standard provides us with assurance that we have the right management systems and tools at our sites to manage this precious resource. This includes outreach with neighboring water users to resolve shared challenges.

All sites source and use water in compliance with the appropriate regulatory requirements. Our monitoring programs are designed to detect any changes in surface and groundwater and we vigilantly investigate variances in water quality that may be due to our operations. This helps safeguard neighboring water users from potentially negative impacts.

2017 Water Management Spotlight

  • We recycled almost 58 million m3 of water in our operations in 2017, compared to 53 million m3 in 2016 and 51.1 million m3 in 2015.
  • Less than 12% of the total water used in our operations was new water withdrawn from the environment in 2017.
  • We withdrew 6.6 million m3 of new water from surface, groundwater and water utilities. In terms of how efficiently we used this water, it is best determined using a ratio of water withdrawn/ore processed. In 2017, 0.24 m3 of water was withdrawn per tonne of ore processed – about the same as in 2016 (0.23 m3 per tonne of ore processed).
  • In 2017, New Gold continued to report water management data publicly to the Carbon Disclosure Project – Water Disclosure Module.

Raw Water Consumption – Across Operations1 (million m3)

Raw Water Consumption bar graph

Includes all water extracted from surface, groundwater and water utilities at our operating mines only, for all purposes, including dust control and cleaning. Includes approximately 2.5 million m3 of surface water (37%), 3.6 million m3 of groundwater (54%) and 0.5 million m3 from water utilities (9%). Does not include rainwater or potable water provided at sites. Water consumption by site is available in the Appendix.

Raw Water1/Ore Processed Ratio2

Raw Water/Ore Processed Ratio bar graph

Raw water does not include rainwater or potable water provided at sites. Includes operations only.


Ore processed was 28,699,000 tonnes in 2016. Includes ore mined and placed on leach pad at Cerro San Pedro and Mesquite, and ore processed at New Afton and Peak.