Environmental monitoring at Kennecott copper mine

Environment

Caring for the planet

Providing the materials the world needs means we have an impact on the environment. We work in remote locations and sensitive environments, our activities have the potential to cause harm through pollution or land disturbance, and we have a significant carbon footprint.

We know that the way we produce these products is just as important as the minerals and metals themselves. We recognise the responsibility we are entrusted with and see ourselves as long-term stewards of natural resources, including land and water, and the ecosystems they support.

Our commitment to understanding and mitigating the risks and impacts of our operations extends from the very beginning of an operation’s life to beyond closure. More immediately, we are accelerating action to reduce our carbon emissions and investing to help reduce emissions generated by the use of our products. We have an important role to play.

Wherever we work, we continually partner with Indigenous and local communities to improve our natural resource management practices to minimise our impact on the environment. For example, every year, at the Diavik Diamond Mine, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, we bring together biologists and members from the local Indigenous communities to sample the water and assess the fish. And in Australia, at our Weipa operations in Far North Queensland, we are working with Traditional Owners and Local Aboriginal People to rehabilitate land using ancient seeds to make sure the right plants are grown in the right areas. These plants will be used for medicine, food and ceremonies.

At our managed operations, we apply internal standards and practices that are in line with – and sometimes go beyond – international and local regulations and permits, as well as the requirements of relevant industry associations such as the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). Our standards clearly articulate what we require from our sites in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services management, air and water emissions control and waste management. We have assurance processes against these standards, local regulations and international certifications such as Copper Mark and Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI).

We know we have more to do, but from the Pilbara in Western Australia, to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to Saguenay-Lac-St. Jean, in Quebec, Canada, we are committed to protecting the land, water, ecosystems and environments where we explore and operate.

Partnerships

We often work in partnership to learn from others and continually improve our processes and techniques. By combining our knowledge, we ensure that our partnerships have lasting, measurable impact.

We engage with global organisations – like the Proteus Partnership, a collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre – to improve the way we avoid harming and mitigate risks to sensitive species and ecosystems. We also work with local organisations on mutually beneficial projects. For example, in Madagascar, we partnered with Asity Madagascar who work with Oxford Brookes University, in the UK, to establish the Ampasy Research Station, which acts as a community hub to support forest conservation, sustainable farming practices and ecotourism around the Tsitongambarika Forest, near our QIT Madagascar Minerals operation.

At Richards Bay Minerals, our operation in South Africa, we have been pioneering sand dune rehabilitation for the past 40 years – testing, learning and improving as we go. Researchers of this work have published their learnings in more than 60 international scientific journal articles, allowing others to benefit from our experience.

We are members of the ICMM: its Principles and their associated Performance Expectations provide member companies like ours with a framework for performance, particularly:

  • Pursue continual improvement in environmental performance issues, such as water stewardship, energy use and climate change (Principle 6)
  • Contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and integrated approaches to land use planning (Principle 7)
  • Facilitate and support the knowledge-base and systems for responsible design, use, reuse, recycling and disposal of products containing metals and minerals (Principle 8)

We are also founders and active members of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), and were the first aluminium producer to have our product ASI-certified as responsible throughout its lifecycle. We continue to actively participate in the review of the ASI standard on biodiversity and ecosystem services, contributing our knowledge and experience gained on the ground at our operations around the world.

ASI certification was made possible with collaboration across the aluminium value chain, including Nespresso, Flora & Fauna International (FFI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Local flora, QMM

Restoring wetlands as big as 300 football fields

At our QIT Madagascar Minerals operation, we restore wetlands to replace the water management paddocks used during mining as the mine progresses. 

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In a cyclone-prone area these wetlands serve as important flood attenuation systems. By closure, the wetlands’ total area will be the size of 300 football (soccer) fields, providing a home for birds, fish and other animals – like crocodiles – and supplying the local Antanosy people with plants used for crafts, fishing baskets and houses.

Transparency

We report externally on our greenhouse gas and other air emissions, waste and tailings, along with our Group water stewardship practices. We are among the most transparent in our industry regarding our water risks, and we are focused on increasingly demonstrating our environmental performance through data and technology.

Australian legislative reform

Our position on Professor Graeme Samuel’s review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

EPBC Act Statement
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Progress in 2022

Year in review

As a forum member of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), we are preparing to pilot the prototype risk management and opportunity disclosure framework at our Simandou site in Guinea.

This framework will help businesses with the transparency and management of nature-related risks. We continue to provide feedback on the framework through our membership of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). We are also refreshing our approach to managing nature-related risk and developing a pathway to increasing our disclosures in line with TNFD.

We have also strengthened our approach to environmental risk management by developing a shared language and a standardised set of controls, and ensuring we are assessing the full breadth of potential environmental impacts in a consistent way across our business.

As part of the Health, Safety, Environment and Security Transformation Programme, we have continued to develop and implement the environment modules, with the “air” and “water” modules in use at our Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean operations in Quebec, Canada. The programme will improve how we manage our environmental data, allowing us to use this information to support our decision making, meet the growing demand for transparency, and set meaningful targets for continuous improvement in environmental performance.

We have also worked to ensure that environmental management is consistent and embedded across all processes in our business and through the lifecycle of our operations. To support our assets in managing their environmental performance, we incorporated environmental risk ownership and performance measurement into the safety maturity model (SMM), which focuses on leadership behaviours in the field and critical risk management.

With our product groups, Health and Commercial teams, we started developing a roadmap for future-proofing our product stewardship to ensure that we continue to deliver products that safeguard the environment, health and safety of our communities and end-consumers.