Our interaction with the natural environment

Water and Effluents

Neo’s plant operations teams consider water management risks associated with water withdrawals, water consumption, and water discharge. Our manufacturing facilities generally utilize water for cooling and feedstock processing. Where water is used as part of the manufacturing process, wastewater treatment is conducted either directly on-site, or pre-treatment is conducted prior to discharging water back to its source or to a community wastewater treatment site. More than half of water withdrawn by our plants is seawater, while the remainder is roughly split between surface water, ground water, and utility-sourced water

Water Withdrawal

Total water withdrawal in 2021 was 2.4 million cubic meters (m3).

 

  • Four of our ten primary operating facilities are located in regions denoted as either High or Extremely High Water Stress levels as classified by the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Water Risk Atlas tool, “Aqueduct.” These facilities’ water withdrawal represents 77% of Neo’s total water withdrawn, excluding seawater withdrawal.
  • At our Sillamae facility, 63% of water withdrawal relates to seawater from the Baltic Sea’s Gulf of Finland, which is used primarily for cooling temperature purposes and is returned chemically unabated to the Baltic Sea.
  • In total, for all our production facilities, water discharge in 2021 was 2.3 million cubic meters, or 92.8% of total water withdrawn.
  • Of the water withdrawn in total, for all our production facilities, 93% of it is returned to its source.

Total water consumption in 2021 was 896 thousand cubic meters; 696 thousand cubic meters was consumed in high stress water regions, or 78% of water consumed. Water consumption is defined as water that is either evaporated, incorporated into our products, or is otherwise not returned to the same origin source. As much of our water dispersed comes from surface water or utilities and is ultimately dispersed in the sea, this water dispersal does not reduce our reported water consumption.

At certain operations, Neo generates excess water as by-product of our manufacturing process. This excess water is included in water dispersed but is excluded from water consumed.

On a per-rata basis, Neo’s net change in water withdrawn versus water dispersed across all production represents less than 1 percent of a cubic meter of water consumed per kilogram of material produced.

This is equivalent to about 9 liters of water for every kilogram of product manufactured. Our manufacturing operations are designed to incorporate water usage based upon the processing needs and availability of local water resources. Managing water withdrawal, consumption, and discharge is regular practice across all of our plants. Neo strives to meet and/or exceed all water discharge quality laws and regulations mandated by host jurisdictions. In 2021, Neo had zero (0) incidents of non-compliance associated with water quality permits, standards, and regulations.

Some of our plants continuously identify and monitor the impact of their activities on freshwater resources, such as our plant in Korat (Thailand) which records the groundwater pumping quantity on a daily basis.

Four of our plants operate in high or Extremely High Water Stress Regions: Sillamae, Estonia; Sagard,Germany (de minimis water consumption); Tianjin, China; and Zibo City, China.

  • Sillamae, Estonia is a location that hosts both our Rare Metals and Chemicals and Oxides business units. While the site is responsible for 76% of Neo’s water withdrawn, 83% of Sillamae’s water withdrawn is seawater from the Baltic Sea. Actual consumption at Sillamae is 323 thousand cubic meters; the net change in water withdrawn versus water dispersed is 185 thousand cubic meters. Sillamae’s operations are located adjacent to the Gulf of Finland and the Sotke river. The quantities of clean water and effluents are measured and monitored, and the site’s Environmental Impact Assessment notes that production does not negatively affect the water qualify of water bodies within the impact area. Often, water recycling systems are utilized within the plant.

  • Our Sagard, Germany facility is located in a high water stress region, although it withdraws and discharges a de minimis amount of water. Management views this as a low-risk water resource operation.

 

Our Zibo (China) plant operates in a high water stress region. The plant has routinely invested in upgrades to its wastewater treatment and pre-treatment discharge systems to exceed local environmental emissions regulations. In 2021, Zibo withdrew 255 thousand metric tons of water, and dispersed 263 thousand metric tons of water. The higher dispersal (103%) reflects incremental water generated as a by-product of the manufacturing process.

Total water consumption was 255 thousand metric tons. Given that our plant location is within a chemical and industrial park that overlaps with the municipal’s primary water source—a ground watershed area known as Dawu–there is heightened interest in protecting this groundwater source from potential surface pollution. This renewed concern is in light of current Municipal Government plans for continued growth in Zibo City, and in review of a historic oil spill by a neighboring petrochemical company in the mid-1980s.

Local plant management has been supportive of these efforts to help alleviate potential risks of groundwater contamination. As a result, Neo is joining many of the industrial plants in this community to relocate to a new industrial zone, located a safe distance from the primary recharging areas of this unique groundwater system.

The new industrial park will also offer new and upgraded water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. In 2021, we made substantial progress on the site choice and engineering design for the soon to be modernized and upgraded manufacturing facility.

Our plant at Tianjin (China) is located in an Extremely High water stress region, although it is in close proximity to low stress regions (less than 10 kilometers from the plant). It primarily sources water from municipal supply, collects and uses rainwater for watering its surrounding flora ecosystem, and deploys water recycling for industrial cooling. In 2021 it withdrew and consumed 118 thousand cubic meters of water, and it dispersed 94 thousand cubic meters of water. It’s dispersal as a percent of water withdrawn rate is 80%

The site was awarded the title of “Water-Saving Enterprise of Tianjin” in 2016, and has further reduced water needs by more than 10% in the proceeding years. This has been driven in part by a network of water meters and sensors that can more quickly identify and isolate any water repair issues.

The plant also set up an advanced treatment station to treat electrophoresis wastewater in 2019, and discharges at a Level III standard, in compliance with local regulation. We regularly monitor discharge water every quarter to ensure levels exceed these regulations.

In addition to these high-stress region plants, we strive to address water intensity issues at all of our plants, and local management considers these risks as either minor or robustly controlled. Case Study on Continuous Improvement: Over the last decade, Neo’s Peterborough plant managed to reduce by more than 50% its water consumption and wastewater per kg of gallium and indium processed.

Management of Water Discharge-Related impacts

Number of incidents of non-compliance associated with water quality permits, standards and regulations

2020. 0

2021. 0

Our local plant managers actively assess water risks and implement mitigation strategies and projects. For example, the rainwater overflow risk at our plant in Korat (Thailand).

In other cases, local plant management considers these risks as either minor or as robustly controlled – e.g. our plants at Tianjin (China), at Peterborough (Canada), Jiangyin (China) Our plant at Tianjin (China) controls discharges its sewage discharges at a Level III standard, in compliance with local regulation. In most cases, water management does not result in lifecycle impacts or trade-offs in plant operations – our plant in Korat (Thailand) is a case in point with its zero-discharge base on recycling. In some other cases, such as our facility Tianjin (China), it is acknowledged that additional electricity consumption from the grid is required to power the water treatment process.

Neo strives to meet and operate at even higher standards of water quality discharge laws and regulations, with no cases of non-compliance in 2021.

Wastewater Treatment

In recent years, our operating facilities have undertaken projects with consequential impact on water treatment. Our plant in Tianjin (China), set up in 2019 an advanced treatment station to treat electrophoresis wastewater. Our plant at Peterborough developed and brought into effect a new, facility-specific wastewater policy and procedure in 2018. Our plant at Korat (Thailand) treats all its wastewater and pursues maximum recycling, while it continuously monitors quality and conducts monthly inspections.

Our plant at Tianjin (China) operates wastewater treatment stations that treat and test non-conforming wastewater, while it also contracts third-party testing agencies to monitor discharge water quality every quarter. For our plant at Zibo (China), the local municipality’s water treatment infrastructure, particularly for chloride discharges, is aged and at capacity.

Continuing operations at this site might risk diverging from the very high environmental standards of operations that Neo’s plants abide by globally. For this reason, Neo’s operations at Zibo are relocating to a new industrial park, with new and higher capacity water treatment infrastructure. Number of incidents of non-compliance associated with water quality permits, standards and regulations Wastewater Treatment.