Sharon Singh is featured on the Mining Journal to discuss how miners will have to reevaluate their water performance and reporting, in response to regulations surrounding water access and usage increasing, as well as the concept of personhood appearing on the horizon in some jurisdictions.
Sharon says, "One of the primary drivers in recognizing rivers as persons has been the perceived or real gap in protecting rivers or other integral aspects of nature. Communities around the world have a variety of relationships with nature, including rivers. From India where rivers such as the Ganges and the Yamuna are worshipped to New Zealand, Colombia and Canada where Indigenous communities have unique and intrinsic rights and relationships with certain water bodies. Although most of these countries have environmental protection and management laws, there is a broader push to recognize easier pathways to demand stewardship action be undertaken to protect rivers and nature. Such action could be greater co-management and co-governance with Indigenous peoples or a recognition of the inherent rights of certain communities to undertake environmental protection measures."
From a legal perspective, Sharon says different tools have been used by different countries and Indigenous communities in recognizing the legal rights of rivers, be it the right to be healthy and a right to survival, or the right to exist in a clean environment. "Recognized and enforceable grants of personhood gives a river the standing to sue and protections which can be enforced, like corporations," she says.
"Water is an integral aspect of ESG criteria. When we look at addressing ESG factors in terms of how we assess risk, it should be on top of an organization's priority to address how an entity looks at its water use and what does inaction in water stewardship mean for an organization," says Sharon.
The management of water related risk is a key concern for an increasing number of mining projects. On advising clients, Sharon says: "Assess your exposure to water, assess your water management practices, analyze what your future operations and objectives are, determine the touch points and interconnectivity to water and the related risks and opportunities that arise. The opportunity that arises from water restrictions or watershed management could be generated through innovation and where your ability to reduce and/or reuse water becomes a competitive advantage. Treating water as a shared resource as a public good helps with the analysis."