The expansion of mining activities into remote and undeveloped ecosystems brings with it opportunities for both the mining companies and the local communities. But with those opportunities come risks to the area’s biodiversity.
Through our Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, Conservation International (CI) is partnering with mining companies, among others, to maximize opportunities for biodiversity conservation, provide guidance on sustainable strategies and providing companies with tools that will help them understand and address their impacts on biodiversity.
The Goals of an Effective Mining Policy
In the past, mining companies’ corporate responsibility programs typically focused on outreach efforts like providing health care or schools and other services to the local communities. Now, they’re increasingly seeking to contribute to biodiversity conservation in the regions impacted by their operations, and to integrate protection with production in a living landscape, also called a conservation corridor that can accommodate people and business activities, as well as wildlife, important habitats and ecosystems.
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Mining companies must now consider conservation issues when determining where to place development, how to replace what’s removed, how to compensate the surrounding communities and more – all within the framework of meeting existing environmental regulations.
The CI Approach – A Unique Relationship
CI firmly believes that business can be a positive force for conservation. We strive to find ways for companies to incorporate conservation methods into their operating practices to create a measurable difference, while simultaneously delivering business value for the company. Contrary to historic reputation, mining companies have become enthusiastic partners in this mission.
Our experience has proven that sound, effective partnerships are built by creating value for all parties. And we’re committed to constructive partnerships that help the companies see value. We understand that mining companies are commercial organizations, and we’re committed to helping them manage risks while maintaining a commitment to their business goals.
A Toolkit for Responsible Practices
In collaboration with several of our corporate partners, we’re working to develop a selection of tools to help companies plan development with conservation opportunities in mind from the outset. These include:
- Initial Biodiversity Assessment and Planning (IBAP): Created through a partnership with Alcoa, this science-based approach assists companies in incorporating biodiversity in their risk analysis and decision-making and planning processes for new development projects.
- Business and Biodiversity Offsets program (BBOP): This partnership of companies, scientists, and government agencies supports projects which compensate for residual, unavoidable harm to biodiversity caused by development.
- The Industry Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT): An internet-based technology for accessing global databases of biodiversity information and overlaying conservation priority areas with development sites used by businesses for early screening of biodiversity issues in project development.
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A Closer Look at Specific Partners
While our efforts are ongoing, the achievements of several mining partnerships are already considerable.
In 2007, Alcoa established a partnership with CI to explore new ways of integrating biodiversity conservation with Alcoa’s environmental policies and management systems as well as share biodiversity information and scientific expertise to assess biodiversity resources. The partnership also strives to identify opportunities to make strategic investments in regional conservation efforts that achieve conservation outcomes, and looks for opportunities to promote biodiversity conservation within the mining sector at the international and national scales. Alcoa has been instrumental in the development of the IBAP approach.
Alcoa is supporting CI’s site-level conservation work in Brazil’s Amazon, development of CI’s fresh water conservation efforts in China, and a carbon offset project in Madagascar.
In 2005, CI partnered with BHP-Billiton Maatschappij Suriname (BMS), a subsidiary of BHP Billiton, in eastern Suriname, using the IBAP approach. CI also provided training to BMS staff on the use of camera trapping technology.
Newmont Mining Corporation
This partnership is focused on building biodiversity considerations into the company’s environmental management systems and supporting biodiversity conservation in priority landscapes in CI’s biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas.
CI is working with Newmont to review their corporate environmental policies, operating standards and management systems to integrate biodiversity conservation into their decision-making processes, and into the design and management of their projects worldwide.
Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd. (a subsidiary of Newmont Mining Corp.) is working with CI-Ghana and local partners to ensure biodiversity issues and conservation opportunities are evaluated and managed at their Akyem and Ahafo sites.
In 2007, CI and Rio Tinto signed a relationship agreement to cover global-level efforts to integrate biodiversity considerations into the company’s environmental management systems, including integration of the IBAP approach. Rio Tinto and CI are working together in a number of places around the world, including Guinea, Brazil and Madagascar.
As the need for further mineral exploration grows, effective biodiversity conservation efforts will become critically important. Fortunately, mining companies are making greater efforts than ever before to act responsibly and are quickly becoming important partners in the conservation effort.
At Conservation International and our Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, we look forward to continuing to engage constructively with these willing partners.