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Apply Mitigation Hierarchy With Ambition of No-Net-Loss

Biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate. Estimates vary, but scientists believe that at least 200 and perhaps as many as 2,000 extinctions occur every year.

Mining is an important driver of economic growth and wellbeing, but it can also have a detrimental impact on biodiversity. Mining projects must manage biodiversity in a manner that is respectful of the habitats in which they operate while continuing to produce essential minerals and metals and provide economic opportunities.

What Does Applying the Mitigation Hierarchy Mean in Practice?

Biodiversity is extremely complex. Our knowledge about biodiversity, and the best way to measure and manage it, is constantly evolving. While there are technical challenges in measuring biodiversity impacts and gains, applying the mitigation hierarchy remains the primary means for companies to contribute to global efforts to halt biodiversity loss. ICMM members commit to addressing risks and impacts to biodiversity and ecosystems in their activities by applying the mitigation hierarchy with the ambition of no-net-loss. This means avoiding negative impacts wherever possible and mitigating them wherever they are not.

The mitigation hierarchy informs actions throughout the life of a mine. Its four stages influence decisions on land use, land management, and the conservation of areas outside of the mine site.

  1. Avoidance means ensuring species and natural processes are not impacted, especially those that cannot easily recover if disturbed. This is often done by not using areas of land where an important habitat is found or avoiding disturbing such areas at critical times such as the breeding season for migratory birds.
  2. Minimisation can include reducing noise and dust pollution or building wildlife underpasses on roads, enabling species to continue their behaviours despite the presence of a mine or mine infrastructure.
  3. Restoration is where an area has been mined and then soil and vegetation replaced to allow biodiversity and ecosystems to regenerate. Collectively, avoidance, minimisation and restoration should reduce the residual impacts that a project has on biodiversity as much as possible.
  4. Offsetting addresses any remaining impacts by seeking conservation gains of the same value, often in other areas, to achieve no-net-loss of biodiversity overall.

Is Achieving No-Net-Loss Possible?

It is possible but it is also challenging.

Measuring and comparing biodiversity and ecosystems is technically complex. Furthermore, there can be a time lag between the biodiversity management, measurement and reporting activities and the time taken for biodiversity impacts and gains to materialise. A mine may even close before the true gains of their activities materialise.

Contextual factors also influence whether no-net-loss can be achieved, for instance whether the biodiversity conserved or restored by mine operators is also respected by others including host communities or governments who may allocate such areas for development purposes. This underscores the importance of pursuing long-term protection for such areas.

Given these challenges it is important that companies put in place robust systems or processes and take all reasonable actions to enable them to achieve and demonstrate no-net-loss. Only by doing so can the mining and metals industry play its part in halting biodiversity loss globally.