Managing biodiversity risk profiles of mining assets through partnership

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Land-based ecosystems and the services they provide support 40 percent of the world's economy and 80 percent of the needs of the poor. Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth and are essential to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring food security (especially for indigenous forest peoples). Since 1970 there has been a 52 percent reduction of wildlife populations and of the 8,300 known animal species, 8 percent are already extinct and 22 percent are at risk of extinction.  All ICMM members implement the 10 principles that underpin our Sustainable Development Framework. Principle 7 requires companies to contribute to biodiversity conservation and integrated approaches to land-use planning.

When the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) officially came into force in January 2016, the nations of the world committed to mobilise efforts to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. Business has a significant part to play, alongside governments and civil society, in creating pathways for a greener, safer and sustainable future for us all. Metals and minerals are essential to almost all aspects of everyday life; they enable farming, healthcare, communications, construction, transport and energy and water supply. And they will arguably become more important as they help to deliver the infrastructure required for a low-carbon future. This is one of a series of case studies gathered from our members to highlight how companies are working to enhance their contribution to society and help industry to manage potential adverse impacts their activities may have on the realisation of some of the SDGs.

Mining has a very significant environmental impact. Unmanaged, this impact can be highly negative, but with sufficient forward planning and holistic management, leading mining companies are beginning to demonstrate how their activities can avoid net loss of biodiversity, with the aspiration of demonstrating net gains.  

In 2015, Anglo American renewed a memorandum of understanding with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which has been a key partner since 2008. The partnership involves reassessing the biodiversity risk profile of each asset within the core Anglo American portfolio.

Biodiversity risk profiling at Anglo American

The requirements of the group-wide risk management standard are already integrated into biodiversity-performance requirements. Where significant biodiversity risks or opportunities are identified, operations develop stand-alone biodiversity action plans (BAPs), which seek to balance ecological considerations and community needs.

FFI assists Anglo American operations in identifying biodiversity risk and opportunity on their sites and continue to support staff with this activity. When FFI carries out BAP peer reviews, Anglo American staff are present, learning about the process and assisting in the review.

The partnership with FFI has already led to a range of outcomes at group level and at site level. These include:

Managing biodiversity risk in Brazil

Iron Ore Brazil’s Minas-Rio operation is situated in an environmentally sensitive area in the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. The mine and its pipeline are in the Atlantic forest and Cerrado biomes, which host several protected species. The operation is also situated in a region with a distinctive iron-rich rocky soil type, which supports unique animal and plant life.

Iron Ore Brazil has engaged FFI to assist in improving identification and management of operational and reputational risks, and conservation opportunities. During 2015 initial high level biodiversity risk assessments were undertaken at the key operational areas to identify potential wider environmental and social-economic risks and opportunities relating to Minas-Rio.

There followed a desktop review of current practices, covering data gathering, monitoring and analysis, and mitigation activities, to identify further actions required at the sites in order to meet international best practices in biodiversity management. A team of FFI and Minas-Rio staff then carried out a 10-day field visit to the key operational areas.

Objectives were to verify the previously reported environmental impacts and mitigation activities; to identify additional gaps in terms of international best practice; and to identify and report on specific risks at the sites and across their broader area of influence. The team held a one-day workshop on biodiversity and ecosystem services with staff from the corporate and mining areas of Minas-Rio to discuss the main findings of the field visit and to identify additional risks and opportunities related to the business.

FFI then developed a biodiversity and ecosystem services policy, strategy and action plan for the Minas-Rio mine area. The action plan recognises biodiversity-related risks and their business implications, and proposed actions align with regional and national conservation plans. Minas-Rio will also be developing biodiversity action plans for its pipeline and the filtration plant.

Iron Ore Brazil’s biodiversity-management programmes include conducting scientific studies in partnership with universities; monitoring fauna and flora; and partnering with other landowners to establish an ecological corridor to support conservation activities.

Outcomes

Anglo American’s unusually far-reaching commitment to biodiversity has yielded measurable, context-specific results in a wide range of locations, as well as reaching the attention of investors.

This multi-year agreement between a large mining company and a large conservation organisation shows how partnerships can deliver results that cannot be achieved through commercial transactions alone.

The partnership is managed and delivered according to jointly-agreed performance indicators which are reviewed both internally and externally.

For FFI, the partnership provides a means of addressing one of the root causes of biodiversity loss. By working with a company that seeks to operate responsibly, FFI has the opportunity to guide development decisions towards outcomes that work both for the environment and local people. FFI also learns from the partnership, building up its knowledge of specific environments and mining sector issues.

For Anglo American, the partnership has provided access to independent expertise and conservation knowledge. This has helped to deliver on its biodiversity commitments as well as its broader sustainable development objectives.

ICMM members supporting the SDGs