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Meet the women leading BHPs approach to water management

Water is integral to what we do and vital to the sustainability of BHP.

It’s central to livelihoods and essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems, and we believe that access to safe, clean water is a basic human right. This is why we are committed to using water in socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial ways.

BHP has reported on its water withdrawals and discharges for over 15 years and in 2017, set a five-year target for 15% reduction in fresh water withdrawal by July 2022.

We’re utilising the STEM capabilities and skill sets of our technical and water planning experts to ensure we continue to maintain safe production while meeting our water stewardship goals.

In a month where International Women’s Day and World Water Day both fall, we take a look at how seven women with a combined industry experience of over 100 years are helping us solve complex water stewardship challenges across the company.

Meet Carolina Ahumada, Principal Hydrology, Technical Centre of Excellence

Carolina is responsible for setting our global water management standards and providing high-level technical support to help our Assets achieve them. Specialising in mine dewatering and pore pressure management, Carolina supports geotechnical and mine planning at Escondida and our other Chilean operations.

“For water related issues, it’s not always required to develop complex tools or models for decision making, sometimes it’s more important to combine technical knowledge and judgment, ownership and communication skills and just do it.”

Women in water series - Carolina

Meet Bonny O’Neal, Manager Water Planning, Coal

A hydrogeologist by trade, Bonny manages a team of 17 water planners, hydrologists and hydrogeologists to deliver water planning and operational design requirements to deal with both drought and floods. Bonny’s operational experience allows her and the team to deliver practical solutions for sustainable water supplies and flood management.

“Do we settle for a world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be, where water is valued and utilised sustainably?”

Women in water series - Bonny

Meet Carmen Pérez, Senior Hydrogeology, Minera Escondida

Carmen is a relatively recent addition to the Escondida planning and Technical team, but she has already made significant inroads to improving the hydrogeological knowledge and conceptualisation essential for mine dewatering. Carmen is experienced in planning and maintaining operations in large open cut and underground mines, and one of her strengths is being able to clearly and concisely explain complex technical issues.

“The application of technical knowledge in water management is of great value when working in an uncertain and dynamic environment, which is why we must work proactively and predictively to ensure the proper management of this valuable resource.”

Women in water series - Carmen

Meet Sandra Ross, Manager, Legacy Assets

Sandra is one of the most experienced hydrogeologists and water managers in the business. Along with her small team of specialists, Sandra’s deep technical knowledge in conceptual hydrogeology, groundwater risk management and water quality impacts is fundamentally important in developing and implementing closure plans for some of our most challenging legacy sites such as Ambrosia Lake and Carsen Hill.

“Water, like copper and iron ore, is an essential resource to our business. It is also essential to LIFE. Therefore, protecting and restoring water quality today must be done holistically and with a future vision.”

Women in water series - Sandra

Meet Adriana Sanchez, Principal Hydrogeology, Minerals Americas

Adriana has extensive planning and operational experience in our Escondida copper mine in Chile, as well as other large, open cut mines across South America. She advises our operational and planning teams how to manage risk to create the hydrogeological characterisations that are important for mine dewatering and depressurisation. With close links to the geotechnical teams in Minerals Americas, Adriana ensures complex groundwater conditions are considered in geotechnical mine designs.

“Solving complex water-related problems requires diverse and collaborative teams, bringing together our multidisciplinary technical skills.”

Women in water series - Adriana

Meet Sarah Williamson, Principal Environment, Group Health, Safety & Environment

Sarah has spent the past 10 years being heavily involved in both assessing current and future impacts of BHP operations on the environment, particularly to water resources. Sarah now supports the delivery of the Water Stewardship strategy across the business and, establishing and reporting on our water position externally. 

“To me, water is a resource that must be protected so that global ecosystem function is maintained and humans continue to enjoy the benefits of access to freshwater. Whether it be for consumption, beauty or recreation, for generations to come.”

Women in water series - Sarah

Meet Rebecca Wright, Manager Water Planning, Western Australia Iron Ore

Did you know that more than 50% of our ore sits below the water table? Rebecca and her 35+ strong team have the enormous task of delivering mine dewatering and surplus water management plans that allow operations to access this ore safely and sustainably. Rebecca is known throughout the industry as a leader in the field of mine closure and water, and with this focus she ensures the plans minimise long-term impacts to water resources.

“Delivering sustainable mine water management for operations and ultimately post closure is paramount. It isn’t not quick or easy. It takes time to understand natural system. Cross disciplinary knowledge gathering, sharing and problem solving is how we will deliver integrated solutions for a better future.”

Women in water series - Rebecca

These women are role models for aspiring hydrologists, hydrogeologists and water managers (both within BHP and the industry more broadly), particularly at a time when sustainable water management has become a serious global issue.

Hydrological knowledge underpins all of our business decisions, and informs our risk controls for water supplies, mine dewatering, flood management, environmental impacts and long-term closure considerations.

Their skills and expertise will be fundamental in resolving any number of complex challenges in the coming decades. Investing in the technical knowledge and skills sets has allowed these women to succeed in their chosen field and allow BHP to operate with transparency on risk and performance.

You can find out more about BHP’s approach to water stewardship on our sustainability page.