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Environment

We acknowledge that the nature of our operations can have significant environmental impacts. Additionally, we depend on obtaining and maintaining access to environmental resources such as land and water.

Competition for environmental resources is growing, with climate change amplifying the sensitivities of our natural systems. Through our Climate Change Position Statement and Water Stewardship Position Statement, we recognise that BHP has a responsibility to play a leadership role in responding to these global challenges.

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Climate change

Warming of the climate is unequivocal, the human influence is clear and physical impacts are unavoidable. See how we approach climate change.

Our environment approach

BHP’s approach to environment is embedded in our Purpose, Our Charter value of Sustainability and key company Position Statements and standards. In line with Our Charter, we acknowledge that we have a role in minimising adverse environmental impacts through every stage of our operational activities and contributing more broadly to the resilience of the natural environment. We also recognise that our environmental performance and management of environmental impacts on our host communities is an important part of our contribution to social value.

Our approach to environmental management is based on the identification, assessment and management of risks (both threats and opportunities) across all phases of our operational activities, including exploration, development, operation and closure. BHP applies a Group-wide Risk Framework to identify and manage risks, including environmental risks, and we engage with stakeholders and take their perspectives and knowledge into account in our decision-making.

As well as commitments in our Position Statements for Climate Change and Water Stewardship, we have Group-wide public environmental targets and longer term goals for water, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. In September 2020, we announced our medium-term target to reduce operational greenhouse gas emissions. Our Group-wide environmental targets include reducing emissions, sustainable use of resources and contributing to the achievement of collective goals, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). We monitor and report our Group performance on a range of environmental indicators and metrics in line with external reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Annual performance data, progress on public targets and key initiatives, as well as certain environmental monitoring information and environmental social impact assessments are publicly available on our website.

Minimising environmental impacts

We seek to avoid, minimise and mitigate adverse environmental impacts at every stage in the life cycle of our operational activities in line with our Risk Appetite Statement and have comprehensive frameworks, policies and processes (including on governance and risk management) that apply to environmental risks and set the basis for how we manage those risks and achieve our environmental objectives.

The Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard (OR E&CC) outlines Group-wide mandatory minimum performance requirements to deliver on our commitments and to manage risk. It requires us to take an integrated, risk-based approach to the management of any actual or reasonably foreseeable operational impacts (which include direct, indirect and cumulative impacts) on land, biodiversity, water and air. We establish and implement monitoring and review practices designed to ensure continued management of environment-related risk within our risk appetite through business planning and project evaluation cycles.

An updated version of the OR E&CC was issued in FY2020, to reflect changes in BHP’s Risk Framework and other Our Requirements standards, our current public targets for water, climate change and biodiversity, our Water Stewardship Position Statement and new technical standards for water. For new requirements contained in the updated version, our operated assets are required to have a plan in place to implement those requirements. 

Our actions

  • Applying the mitigation hierarchy
    We apply the mitigation hierarchy in our approach to managing potential impacts and enabling opportunities to be realised to achieve our environmental objectives. Steps one and two of the mitigation hierarchy – avoid and minimise – seek to prevent adverse impacts as far as possible. Steps three and four – rehabilitate and compensate – seek to address those impacts that cannot be avoided. An example of applying this hierarchy was adjusting the mine plan at Jimblebar to avoid impacts to water resources and key biodiversity values.

     

    As detailed in the OR E&CC, our operated assets are required to put in place controls and plans that reflect the mitigation hierarchy, an approach that helps us to avoid potential adverse environmental impacts and, if necessary, minimise and rehabilitate any unavoidable impacts. If, after application of the first three stages of the mitigation hierarchy, actual or reasonably foreseeable impacts to important biodiversity and/or ecosystems remain, we will seek to identify compensatory actions, such as offsets, in line with BHP’s risk appetite.

  • Commitments to avoid impacts

    BHP respects legally designated protected areas and commits to avoiding areas or activities where we consider the environmental risk is outside BHP’s risk appetite. These include:

    • We do not explore or extract resources within the boundaries of World Heritage listed properties.
    • We do not explore or extract resources adjacent to World Heritage listed properties, unless the proposed activity is compatible with the outstanding universal values for which the World Heritage property is listed.
    • We do not explore or extract resources within or adjacent to the boundaries of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Protected Areas Categories I to IV, unless a plan is implemented that meets regulatory requirements, takes into account stakeholder expectations and contributes to the values for which the protected area is listed.
    • We do not operate where there is a risk of direct impacts to ecosystems that could result in the extinction of an IUCN Red List Threatened Species in the wild.
    • We do not dispose of mined waste rock or tailings into a river or marine environment.
  • Environmental management processes

    Our environmental management processes are set out in the OR E&CC and BHP’s mandatory minimum performance requirements for risk management, as well as aspects of other Our Requirements standards. The OR E&CC also includes specific climate-change related requirements for our operated assets, in addition to the environment components listed below.

    • Development of requirements under the OR E&CC considers and aligns to applicable external standards and requirements, including the ISO14001 international standard for Environmental Management Systems and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standard (PS) 6, which relates to biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources. The OR E&CC applies to environment-related risks and potential impacts on the physical environment: air, water, land, biodiversity, communities and their interrelationships.
    • The OR E&CC applies to all BHP employees and contractors involved in planning or executing exploration, development, operational or closure activities, or those making investment decisions. Compliance with the OR E&CC is not mandated for non-operated joint ventures; however, consideration of the OR E&CC (or equivalent standards) is encouraged.
    • To support continual improvement in environmental performance, each of our operated assets is required to:
      • have an Environmental Management System (EMS) that aligns with ISO14001 standards. Verification of the EMS is either via ISO14001 certification, for those sites that currently hold ISO14001 certification, or internal assurance processes, and
      • have an Environmental Management System (EMS) that aligns with ISO14001 standards. Verification of the EMS is either via ISO14001 certification, for those sites that currently hold ISO14001 certification, or internal assurance processes, and
      • set Target Environmental Outcomes (TEOs) for land, biodiversity, air and water resources that are consistent with the assessed risks and potential impacts. TEOs are required to be approved by the relevant Asset President or equivalent and included in the life of asset plan.
    • Environmental impact assessments are required to consider, within the area of influence, current and reasonably foreseeable activities associated with life of asset and closure plans, including consideration of climate projections.
    • Each of our operated assets must define intended asset-level environmental objectives by setting TEOs for land, biodiversity, air and water resources consistent with the assessed risks and potential impacts. Management review processes are required to monitor and verify progress towards achievement of TEOs and ensure continued management of environment-related risk within our risk appetite through the business planning and project evaluation processes.
    • We require operated assets to assign and include resources in their two-year budgets to help manage environment-related risks (including regulatory and compliance risks) and to progress TEOs and context-based water targets.
    • Environmental incidents and events are required to be managed in line with BHP’s mandatory minimum performance requirements for event and investigation management, which includes requirements for reporting, investigations, corrective actions and communications relating to health, safety, environmental and community (HSEC) events, with the objective of minimising the potential for recurrence.
    • BHP applies processes to engage with communities and external stakeholders and manage internal and external complaints and grievances. In addition to our business conduct hotline, EthicsPoint, and online case management system, the Our Requirements for Community standard requires local-level complaint operated assets.
    • The OR E&CC is regularly reviewed and updated as required.
  • Air emissions

    The most significant air emissions across our portfolio of operated assets relate to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and dust. For more information on GHG emissions, see . We recognise the importance of managing and controlling the dust that mining operations can generate to avoid or minimise potential impacts on air quality, health and the environment. The Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard includes the requirement for operated assets that have identified the potential for significant air-related impacts on community wellbeing to develop an air quality management plan. The plan’s development must consider a stakeholder engagement strategy, dispersion modelling, targets, objectives and reporting.

    In FY2021, we progressed a number of actions to improve dust management at our operated assets. These include:

    • At Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO), we announced plans in FY2020 to invest up to a further A$300 million over five years to improve air quality and reduce dust emissions across our Pilbara operations. Studies have progressed to support future mine plans, including further optimisation of moisture management systems for ore conditioning at mines, and introducing new technologies, such as wind fences for reducing dust generation at the port.
    • For the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, we are developing an Air Quality Framework for all our operated mines, focusing on improving real-time air quality monitoring and dust management controls to contribute to our proactive site operational measures.
    • For BHP Mitsui Coal, we have designed a real-time air quality monitoring network at our Poitrel Mine with installation expected in FY2022. This will provide Poitrel Mine with enhanced data to improve operational dust management.
    • In Chile, we are implementing an air quality strategy for all our operated mines, focusing on real-time air quality and health exposure monitoring, dust management control improvements, modelling and forecasting of air quality conditions and dust analytics.
  • Waste management

    Resource extraction and processing can generate large amounts of waste depending on the mineral geology, mining or extraction method and extent of processing applied to produce our products to the specifications our customers require. We are committed to continually improving our practices to minimise waste generation, increase recycling and repurposing of materials, and prevent pollution through proper disposal.

     

    We broadly define waste from resource extraction into two main categories: mineral and non-mineral waste. These are further split into hazardous and non-hazardous streams, which are usually defined by local legislation.

     

    Mineral waste includes waste from raw or intermediate materials, such as mineral ore that has been processed as part of the production sequence. We process some of our ores to increase the concentration of target minerals or remove unwanted components using processes such as beneficiation, refining and smelting. These processes generate mineral waste streams, such as tailings, slimes, sludge, residues, slag, fly ash and gypsum or coal rejects.

     

    Non-mineral waste includes waste that does not arise from minerals extraction and processing, but arises from our overall activities, such as packaging, lubricants, scrap metal and food waste from mining camps.

     

    Mineral waste, including tailings, is the waste stream we focus on in our Group-level ESG standards and databook given it is the most significant waste for us in terms of the volume we generate. We also monitor and report hazardous waste streams (mineral and non-mineral), as required by local or national legislation.
    All waste streams are required to be managed to the higher of applicable BHP internal global standards or the local legislative requirements.

     

    An example of our commitment to continuous improvement in relation to waste management is our joint funding of the Future Tails program, launched in June 2020 in partnership with Rio Tinto and the University of Western Australia. Over five years, we will invest A$2 million to fund a program of training, research and education to establish industry-wide best practice of waste management and tailings storage facilities.

Environmental governance


Our approach to environmental governance is a part of BHP’s overarching governance processes, as follows:

  • The BHP Board oversees our sustainability approach, with the Board’s Sustainability Committee overseeing HSEC matters and assisting the Board with governance and monitoring. The Sustainability Committee also oversees the adequacy of the systems designed to identify and manage HSEC-related risks and overall HSEC and other human rights performance. The Board’s Risk and Audit Committee assists with oversight of the Group’s risk management systems. 
  • As with all risks faced by the Group, environment-related risks are required to be managed in accordance with BHP’s Risk Framework. BHP uses the ‘three lines model’ of risk governance and management to define the relationships and clarify the roles of different teams across the organisation in managing risk, including environment-related risk. The first line is provided by our frontline staff, operational management and people in functional roles who make decisions at our operated assets and are responsible for identifying, assessing, treating and monitoring risks at an operational level. The Risk team and other second-line functions, such as our Group and Regional Health, Safety and Environment teams, define and assure the minimum standards to which the first line operates. Our Internal Audit and Advisory team then has accountability for auditing the effectiveness of the standards and their application, as the third line. The outcomes of internal as well as external audits are taken into account when updating environmental management systems and the OR E&CC and are also considered by the Board and senior management when reviewing the Group’s risk profile.

Contributing to a resilient environment


We look beyond our operated assets for opportunities to contribute to environmental resilience and seek to work with others to collectively solve shared environmental challenges, as outlined in our Position Statements for Water Stewardship and Climate Change.

We recognise BHP can engage across communities, government, business and civil society with the aim of encouraging actions to improve natural resources governance and advance sustainable solutions for the natural environment. We aim to do this through our individual company actions, as well as by promoting the adoption of industry best practice through industry associations we belong to, such as the  International Council on Mining and Metals, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association and the CEO Water Mandate

Regulatory information

We are committed to high ethical business practices and governance standards.

We provide detailed regulatory information in operational, environmental and community information for our local communities and key government stakeholders.