We acknowledge the nature of our operations can impact the natural environment. We also depend on obtaining and maintaining access to natural resources such as land and water.
Under our 2030 Healthy environment goal, we seek to create nature-positive1 outcomes by having at least 30 per cent of the land and water we steward2 under conservation, restoration or regenerative practices by FY2030. In doing so, we focus on areas of highest ecosystem value both within and outside our own operational footprint, in partnership with Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Our approach and position
Competition for environmental resources is growing, with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss amplifying the sensitivities of our natural systems. Through our Climate Transition Action Plan 2021, Water Stewardship Position Statement and our Group-level biodiversity strategy, we outline our vision, strategies and focus areas to support action on these global challenges. Specific information pertaining to our Water, Climate and Biodiversity approach and position can be found at the Water webpage, Biodiversity and land webpage and Climate change webpages. More details on BHP’s 2030 goals can be found in BHP Annual Report 2023, Operating and Financial Review 6.5 - 2030 goals. We recognise that with BHP's significant land and water footprints, there is an opportunity to steward a renewed focus on environmental management.
In line with Our Charter value of Sustainability, key company position statements (e.g., the Water Stewardship Position Statement) and Group-wide standards, we seek to avoid or minimise adverse environmental impacts through every stage of our operational activities and acknowledge our role in contributing more broadly to the resilience of the natural environment. We also recognise our environmental performance and management of environmental impacts on the communities where we operate are important parts of our contribution to social value. We intend to contribute our part to global efforts to halt and reverse nature loss, which includes progressively assessing and disclosing our risks, impacts and dependencies on nature and taking appropriate actions to contribute towards nature-positive outcomes through our 2030 Healthy environment goal.
Our approach to environmental management is based on and influenced by:
- the identification, assessment and management of risks (both threats and opportunities) across all phases of our operational life cycle, including exploration, development, operation, closure and post closure. BHP applies a Group-wide Risk Framework to identify and manage risks, including environmental risks.
- engagement with internal and external stakeholders to ensure we take their perspectives and knowledge into account in our decision-making.
- the realms of nature (land, oceans, freshwater and atmosphere) that we may impact or depend on.
- the extent and nature of our planned activities and optimising our activities to seek to minimise or prevent adverse impact and maximise contribution to social value.
- societal risks such as habitat loss and pollution
At every stage in the life cycle of our operated assets, we seek to avoid, minimise and mitigate our adverse environmental impacts in line with our defined Risk Appetite Statement by applying our frameworks, policies and processes, including on governance and risk management.
Our Group-wide approach to environmental management is set out in the Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard and our mandatory minimum performance requirements for risk management to deliver on our commitments and to manage environment-related risks. These standards require us to take an integrated, risk-based approach to managing any actual or reasonably foreseeable operational impacts (direct, indirect and cumulative) on biodiversity, land, 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. For more information on BHP’s risk process, refer to the BHP Annual Report 2023, Operating and Financial Review 8 – How we manage risk.
Our primary approach to preventing or minimising our potential adverse environmental impacts within our operational footprint is to apply the mitigation hierarchy. 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 Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard, 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.
The Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard mandates the use of an Environmental Management System (EMS) that aligns with global environmental management frameworks, such as ISO 14001. We use our EMS to implement our approach to environmental management and to drive continuous improvement in our environmental performance. Our non-operational land is the primary focus of our 2030 Healthy environment goal but both this goal and the mitigation hierarchy will be used to inform management approaches on operational and non-operational land.
Beyond our BHP footprint, we commit to making voluntary contributions to support environmental resilience across the regions where we operate through social investment, on ground action and thought leadership.
More detail on our Group-level processes and requirements and how they apply to environmental risks is set out below.
Our 2030 Healthy environment goal is supported by successive short-term milestones that will be developed over the seven-year period. Our initial milestones for FY2023 were to complete mapping of important biodiversity and/or ecosystems (IBE) for operated assets (excluding OZ Minerals and legacy assets3) in Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas, and to publish context-based water targets (CBWTs). These short-term milestones have been completed and more information can be found at our Biodiversity and land webpage and our Shared water challenges webpage respectively.
The key metrics to track progress on delivery of the 2030 Healthy environment goal are:
- the area under nature-positive management practices4
- the number of our operated assets with a natural capital account5.
1 Nature positive is defined by the WBCSD/TNFD as ‘A high-level goal and concept describing a future state of nature (e.g. biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural capital) which is greater than the current state.’ It includes land and water management practices that halt and reverse nature loss – that is, supporting healthy, functioning ecosystems.
2 Excluding greenfield exploration licences (or equivalent tenements), which are located outside the area of influence of our existing mine operations. 30 per cent will be calculated based on the areas of land and water that we steward at the end of FY2030. For more information refer to the BHP ESG Standards and Databook 2023.
3 All land and water areas at our operated assets (excluding OZ Minerals and legacy assets) in Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas. Legacy assets refer to those BHP-operated assets, or part thereof, located in the Americas that are in the closure phase.
4 Area under stewardship that has a formal management plan, including conservation, restoration or regenerative practices. 1.3 per cent is calculated based on the areas of land and water that we stewarded at 30 June 2023. For more information refer to the BHP ESG Standards and Databook 2023.
5 Natural capital accounts are a way to measure the amount, condition and value of environmental assets in a given area. It helps describe changes in ecosystems and how these impact wellbeing and economies.
Governance and oversight
For information on the role of the BHP Board in overseeing our approach to and delivery on sustainability, refer to the Sustainability approach webpage.
We have a range of core business processes, requirements and guidance materials that apply to our management of the environment at Group- and operated asset-levels. These include:
- our corporate planning, scenario, strategy and investment evaluation processes
- standards such as the Our Requirements standards and other mandatory minimum performance requirements, including those on risk management, environment and climate change, closure, water, data, human rights, community and stakeholder engagement
- target and goal setting, for example our 2030 goals
- water accounting
- technical standards
- audit and assurance
EngagementWe recognise BHP can engage across communities, government, business and civil society with the aim of encouraging actions to improve natural resources governance and advance more sustainable solutions for the natural environment. We aim to do this through our individual actions, ongoing stakeholder engagement with local communities (see Local communities webpage),as well as by promoting the adoption of industry best practice through industry and other associations we belong to, such as the International Council on Mining and Metals and the CEO Water Mandate.
We seek to attend or participate in key national and international collaboration forums (such as the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), the UN Water Conference, water in mining conferences, and BHP-led roundtables about nature-related issues and ESG investor briefings), as well as developing or continuing partnerships with NGO’s and research organisations.
DisclosureWe 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), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the ICMM Performance Expectations.
In September 2021, BHP joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum as we seek to incorporate a deeper understanding of nature-related risks to further embed consideration of such risks into our strategic planning, risk management and corporate decision-making processes.
Water and biodiversity are material topics for BHP, as evaluated by the GRI framework definition and process. For this reason, our specific disclosures on these topics are included on our Water and Biodiversity and land webpages and in the BHP Annual Report 2023, Operating and Financial Review 6.13 – Environment and our ESG Standards and Databook.
Air and waste performance information is set out below.
The most significant air emissions across our portfolio of operated assets relate to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and dust. For information on GHG emissions, see our Climate change webpage. We recognise the importance of managing and controlling the dust that mining operations can generate to avoid or minimise potential adverse 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 must consider a stakeholder engagement strategy, dispersion modelling, targets, objectives and reporting.
We have implemented 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 operated mines, focusing on improving real-time air quality monitoring and dust management controls to contribute to proactive site operational measures.
- 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.
- At Nickel West, we are implementing an asset-level air quality management plan that focuses on air quality risk identification and management. This will enable improved operational controls designed to mitigate potential air quality risks across the Nickel West mining and processing operations.
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, waste rock, 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 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.
While we focus on waste-related impacts related to our operations, we also recognise the potential downstream impacts of some of our products, for example uranium. Australian uranium is sold for nuclear power generation only and therefore waste associated with its use is disposed under specific local government regulation.
All waste streams (including waste from BHP operations that is managed by a third party) are required to be managed to the higher of applicable BHP internal global standards, such as the Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard and tailings storage facilities standards or the local legislative requirements.
We have recently reviewed our waste reporting and expect to report additional waste data for our operated assets to align with GRI 306 Waste and SASB Metals and Mining requirements. We plan to start disclosing that data in our FY2024 reporting.
An example of our commitment to continuous improvement in relation to waste management is our joint funding of the Future Tails program, which we launched in June 2020 in collaboration 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 for waste management and tailings storage facilities.
Our processes to identify, assess and manage environment-related risks are undertaken in line with our overarching BHP risk framework. For details refer to the BHP Annual Report 2023, Operating and Financial Review 8 – How we manage risk.
Detailed information on water-related risks is available on the Water webpage.
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.