Biodiversity

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NPI verification: reviewing our progress

Image of Lizard in relation to work towards animal conservation

Since our NPI announcement in 2004, Rio Tinto has been working with others on ways to measure our impacts – both losses and gains. Our methods for accounting have undergone, and continue to undergo, scrutiny – both internally and externally. A number of operations are piloting, then using, our tools and guidance, and their feedback inevitably leads to further revision.

While these tools and metrics have been developed jointly with leading international conservation organisations, we think it is vital that our NPI progress and achievements can be independently reviewed. We are currently working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop an appropriate Net Positive Impact Review Protocol to enable this.

A Net Positive Impact Protocol & Review Panel Team (NPIP&RPT) was established in 2010. It comprises six IUCN designates – encompassing specialists from the IUCN secretariat, its expert commissions, and its member institutions – and six Rio Tinto representatives. The team has been appointed based on biodiversity expertise, review process experience, geographical diversity and mining sector experience.

The main objective of the team is to develop, pilot and refine a review process that serves as an independent evaluation of the planning, assessment and progress towards achieving NPI at any Rio Tinto site. It also identifies potential limitations to achieving NPI. It is anticipated that the NPI reviews will be repeated at regular intervals over the life of the operation.

Introduction

External expectations around the private sector’s management of biodiversity are growing. This is driving new regulatory and financial requirements that are creating change in the mining industry. Rio Tinto’s activities impact biodiversity, making our mining and refining projects increasingly high profile and sensitive for communities, governments, investors and others.

In 2004, anticipating the risk and opportunities for our business, we launched our biodiversity strategy. This includes our goal of achieving a net positive impact (NPI) on biodiversity in the regions where we operate. For Rio Tinto, achieving a net positive impact means ensuring that our presence in a region ultimately has positive effects on biodiversity. The actions we are undertaking at sites are designed, to not only balance, but be broadly accepted to outweigh the inevitable disturbances and impacts associated with mining and mineral processing.

Approach

Rio Tinto’s biodiversity goal is to achieve a net positive impact on biodiversity before, or by closure, of the operation. It is our goal to be NPI positive as early in the life of the operation as possible. We've set ourselves targets to ensure that our priority sites are implementing NPI programmes within defined timeframes.

We aim to achieve our goal by:

  • Avoiding unacceptable impacts to biodiversity
  • Reducing the impacts that may occur
  • Restoring impacted ecosystems
  • Compensating for residual impacts through offsets
  • Seeking additional opportunities to contribute to local conservation

We refer to this approach as the "mitigation hierarchy".

Mitigation Heiarchy

Over the past 15 years, we have developed a number of procedures, tools and methodologies to help us with our goal of achieving a net positive impact on biodiversity. These have been developed following rigorous debate both inside and outside Rio Tinto, and with the help of our biodiversity partners, external specialists and NGOs. They include a set of NPI and offsets principles that our operations work towards.

We acknowledge the contributions made by BirdLife International, Conservation International, the Earthwatch Institute, Fauna & Flora International, Hardner and Gullison, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The Biodiversity Consultancy in the design and development of the biodiversity strategy policy tools and methodologies.

Results

In 2007, we introduced an annual Group-wide Global Biodiversity Values Assessment Protocol (GBVA) to help us identify which of our operations are located in the most sensitive areas.

The GBVA assesses the biodiversity values of our landholdings and surrounding areas. It looks at land in proximity to biodiversity-rich habitats, species of conservation significance, additional site-specific biodiversity values and threats, and the external conservation context.

Operations are ranked as being in areas that have either "very high", "high", "medium" or "low" biodiversity values, which helps us prioritise our actions and channel resources where they are most needed – the very high and high sites.

Biodiversity values assessments

2012 Biodiversity values assessment
2012 Biodiversity values assessment

All of our sites that rank as very high or high must have a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) in place. The BAP requires an operation to work with biodiversity stakeholders to identify the important biological features – both on and off site – in the area in which it operates. A site must understand the impacts and risks that its activities might have on those features, and develop and implement a plan to avoid, mitigate, restore and offset those impacts.

The BAP provides the framework that plans and guides an operation’s progress towards NPI.

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