Companies and water: Value diluted

IN 2013 a Chilean court ruled that Barrick of Canada, the world’s largest gold-mining firm, could not go ahead with its Pascua Lama mine until it could guarantee not to pollute downstream water or damage nearby glaciers. The company eventually suspended the project, taking a $5 billion write-down. This week it said it was in talks with Zijin Mining, a Chinese state-owned firm, to become its partner, if the development ever restarts.Water—its scarcity, quality and the regulations affecting it—is becoming a new corporate headache. A survey by CDP, a research firm that works for institutional investors, finds that in almost two-thirds of the world’s largest listed companies responsibility for dealing with water problems lies at board level. An increasing number of bosses say water is or will soon become a constraint on their firm’s growth. They are right to worry, but most firms are not doing much about the problem.Shortages do not only affect those that use millions of gallons in their industrial processes (miners, say) or whose products are made of water (beer and soft-drinks makers). It also affects those whose inputs depend on the stuff (food…

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