Sturt Desert Pea in the Pilbara

Biodiversity

We are fortunate to work in places – from near the Arctic Circle to Far North Queensland – where the beauty of the environment is part of the natural heritage. We are committed to protecting this heritage throughout the life of our operations – from exploration to closure.

We know that our operations can affect biodiversity and natural resources within land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, including some that are under global threat. By understanding the value of these ecosystems, we can manage potential impacts on biodiversity and the natural resource dependencies of host communities in the regions that we operate. 

We do this in many ways.

2019 Performance

In 2019, we launched a new biodiversity protection and natural resource management standard. Our first step in line with this standard was to assess and rank the biodiversity risks and sensitivities of each of our operations’ footprint, using the best available global biodiversity information and data. This advances our previous baseline assessments by using data covering our entire operating footprint. To assess and rank biodiversity sensitivities across our operations, we worked with experts from the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

We are using the baseline developed by UNEP-WCMC to prioritise our sites within our internal assurance framework, helping us implement robust biodiversity management programmes to mitigate our impact on biodiversity, and find ways to work with host communities and conservation organisations.

  • Wildlife in the forest near QMM
    Madagascar
    In Madagascar, for example, we designed our mineral sands operations to avoid key areas of the littoral forest, home to unique species including lemurs, chameleons and flying fox bats.
  • Beekeeping at Boron operations
    California
    In California, we use a local beekeeper to rehouse bees, which helps keeps both the bees and our employees safe. The bees’ role as a pollinator also has enormous value to the local community, not only in stimulating natural biodiversity but also in making many crops viable.
  • Cape Lambert environment
    Australia
    In Australia, because a number of our operations are close to the coast, we invest in marine research to assess and address possible impacts. For example, our Cape Lambert operation is next to Bells Beach, a regionally significant mainland rookery for the threatened flatback turtle (Natator depressus). So we have implemented extensive monitoring and management programmes both within our operations and at the beach since 2002. We do this in partnership with the local communities, regulators and Cape Lambert’s traditional owner group, Ngarluma.

Working in Partnership

Our environmental standards guide us to identify and manage risks to the environment – often with the help of academic, civil society and Indigenous partners. We also work closely with local communities and Indigenous peoples to plan for, and monitor, potential impacts from our operations and carry out mitigation activities. At Amrun, our newest bauxite mine in Cape York, Australia, for example, we set up the Land and Sea Management programme, which employs Traditional Owners to help monitor and manage cultural heritage, plants and land and marine wildlife to ensure minimal disruption.

We have also set up a number of independent panels at specific sites to guide and assist us. At QIT Madagascar Minerals, for example, we have established an Independent Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management Committee – which includes experts in biodiversity and community management of natural resources – to help us implement and monitor our biodiversity work, and balance the natural resource needs of local communities. 

We also contribute to regional biodiversity research and conservation efforts, such as the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative in Canada. The Nechako White Sturgeon is a survivor from the age of dinosaurs and the largest freshwater fish in the country. We were a founding member of the Initiative – a partnership between all levels of government, environmental groups and First Nation peoples – which aims to prevent further declines of Nechako White Sturgeon numbers, ultimately rebuilding a self-sustaining population.  

Northern Quoll, Western Australia

Improving our Quoll-ifications

Australia's northern quolls, a small spotty marsupial, are doing it pretty tough – so tough, in fact, they are listed as an endangered species.

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Quolls were once a common sight in Australia, but over the years introduced species like poisonous cane toads and feral cats have decimated these cute, furry creatures. So when we found a small population of quolls living at our Weipa bauxite operations, in far northern Australia, our team went to work to protect them.

We found and recorded a number of quolls as part of our regular baseline ecological surveys.
- Brad Warner, a biodiversity and land specialist in our Environment team.

“The find was actually really exciting, as we took the opportunity to carry out further research on the quoll. With the data we collected, we were able to demonstrate the importance of the area, which meant that mining was excluded from that part of the lease.”

As well as avoiding disturbance in the area where the quolls were found, we have been working with ecologists and the local Nanum Wungthim Land and Sea Rangers to learn more about the northern quoll populations in the area. This includes monitoring the population using motion sensor cameras, and conducting tracking studies to follow the movements of quolls fitted with radio emitting collars. Both programmes have provided valuable insights into northern quoll ecology and how we can help protect these beautiful animals.

“At the end of the day, we are both working towards the conservation of the species. Working side by side has delivered a far greater outcome for biodiversity in the area.”

Using the Mitigation Hierarchy

We use the mitigation hierarchy to minimise our impacts on the biodiversity of areas where we work. This includes actions like:

  • Avoidance
  • Minimisation
  • Restoration
  • Offset

We look for opportunities to change or stop an activity to preserve biodiversity. For example, by avoiding mining related disturbance in an area where threatened species are found.

Where we cannot completely stop an activity or avoid an area, we look for ways to reduce our impacts. This includes things like speed limits on haulage roads to protect wildlife, and maintaining wildlife corridors in areas where we are operating.

We progressively revegetate disturbed land, once mining in the area is finished. This includes working with scientists and local Indigenous people to make sure we are restoring land the right way.

These are actions we can take to address significant residual impacts we cannot avoid, minimise or restore. At our Weipa Operations in Australia, for example, we established an offset area, which includes sensitive ecosystems and is managed in partnership with Wik and Wik-Waya traditional owners.