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BMA Water Allocation

The shared challenge of limited water in Queensland, including its potential adverse economic and social impacts, has been identified across industry and communities (Water Resources Situational Analysis for Central Queensland 2021) and government (Queensland Government 2021). In response, the Queensland Water Market Optimisation Action Plan encourages ”more water users to offer their unused water on the temporary trading market” (Queensland Government 2021, p. 2).  

BHP has sought to play our role in addressing this challenge and, on World Environment Day, 5 June 2023, we announced our context-based water targets for a number of our operated assets. For the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) metallurgical coal mines, we developed these targets to support equitable access to water in the Fitzroy Basin in the Central Queensland region, with the aim to make more water available for other users. As part of these targets, we set a milestone to make unutilised BMA water allocations available for the temporary water trading market each year, beginning in FY2024. Our action is pertinent because the Fitzroy Basin is the second largest seaward draining basin in Australia. The river flows through the lands of 17 Indigenous groups, supports major agricultural and mineral activity, and flows into the southern Great Barrier Reef lagoon. 

Implementing the process for trading on the temporary water market is an innovation for BMA, requiring significant cross-functional collaboration and endorsement.  

“We worked closely with the  team who manages our relationship with bulk water supplier, SunWater, and the water broker to complete the water trades and temporary transfer to other users such as irrigators”, explained Bonny O’Neal, Manager Water Planning at BHP. 

Through their collaboration efforts, several BHP teams were able to develop a process, which quickly assesses water volumes that can be made available to the water market against the needs of BMA’s operations. These teams regularly assess the water allocation needs of BMA operations. Where possible, unused water allocations will continue to be made available to the market to contribute to social value, deliver BMA’s context-based water target and support BHP’s Water Stewardship Position Statement

As of February 2024, BMA had traded 1.5 gigalitres of water allocations on the Queensland water market, as evidenced by temporary allocation sale approvals. This water has been made available to ‘broad acre irrigators’ in the Nogoa Mackenzie region, which include cotton, sorghum, chickpea, and wheat farms.  

A similar outcome may be replicated for other resources within BHP or other businesses if they identify an excess or underutilisation of resources, which may enable savings or a service to others (both internal and external).