Between 30 to 50 percent of production for copper, gold, iron ore, and zinc is concentrated in areas where water stress is already high, reported McKinsey in a recent study looking at climate change and miners.
With climate change, the consultancy warned that water shortages will get worse for miners leading to social and technical challenges. “In Chile, 80 percent of copper production is already located in extremely high water-stressed and arid areas; by 2040, it will be 100 percent.
In Russia, 40 percent of the nation’s iron ore production, currently located in high water-stressed areas, is likely to move to extreme water stress by 2040,” writes the study’s authors.
McKinsey also noted that mining operations not accustomed to water stress will suddenly have to adjust their operations.
Water shortages will make getting a social license to operate that much harder. To adapt miners will need to invest in technology to reduce water consumption.