Our activities could have inherent risks for terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity in the areas where we operate. Our ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ approach, as embedded in the Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard is a key element of our approach to environment. At each of our operated assets, we look to manage threats and realise opportunities to achieve our environmental objectives by applying the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, mitigate, rehabilitate and, where appropriate, apply compensatory measures) to any potential or residual adverse impacts on marine or terrestrial ecosystems.
As noted in Our 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.
As part of our approach to environment risk management, in terms of land and biodiversity management, our operated assets are required to identify and map key features and define the area of influence for biodiversity and ecosystems. In accordance with our Group-wide Risk Framework, we then undertake a risk assessment for the defined area of influence, taking into consideration all relevant impacts, including any actual or reasonably foreseeable operational impacts (whether direct, indirect or cumulative), and apply the mitigation hierarchy to manage threats and enable opportunities to be realised, to achieve our environmental objectives. For any adverse residual impacts to key biodiversity or ecosystems (which cannot be avoided, minimised or rehabilitated), we identify compensatory actions, such as offsets, to achieve outcomes that align with BHP’s risk appetite.
A number of activities potentially arising from our operated assets could have significant direct, indirect or cumulative adverse impacts on biodiversity, including:
- Removal of habitat - land or seabed clearing in preparation for resource extraction activities or infrastructure installation, which could completely remove a species or community if it has a geographically restricted area of distribution or is endangered.
- Changes to water availability or water quality - groundwater or marine water abstraction, re-injection of surplus water, surface water discharge or diversion, port facilities, disposal of dredge spoil or discharges into the marine environment could remove or alter habitat for a number of species or communities that rely on it for some or all of their life cycle.
- Use of infrastructure corridors – which may reduce a species’ ability to move or migrate, or increase the risk of death through vehicle or boat strikes.
- Introduction or spread of non-native species – competition, predation or infection arising from the introduction or increased spread of a non-native species may result in local extinctions of native species or reduced ecosystem function.
- Inappropriate disposal of waste – which could lead to direct mortality, such as through entrapment, or illness due to consumption.
- Hydrocarbon spills – which could lead to direct mortality due to loss of habitat or interaction (e.g. loss of ability to fly), or illness due to consumption.
- Noise or light pollution – which could alter an animal’s behaviour, for instance, it may not be able to see or hear prey or predators, may avoid areas, or become disorientated.
- Reduction in air quality – increased dust or air pollution may alter vegetation structure or animal behaviour.
- Progressive rehabilitation and site closure plans – different approaches to the rehabilitation of land no longer required for extractive activities or to site closure objectives may affect the extent to which habitat and ecosystem functionality is restored.
In addition, the potential adverse impacts of our activities could be amplified by broader pressures, including:
- Climate change – species and ecosystems that are unable to shift or adapt with climate change could be reduced in size or number or become extinct. The ability of species to adapt to climate change is likely to be reduced by insufficient available habitat.
- Changes to fire regimes – in some areas, such as Australia, vegetation is adapted to some level of fire; however, increased frequency and intensity of fires can alter vegetation structure and increase the spread of non-native species and may result in death of animals that are unable to escape.
- Changes to landscape planning or use – cumulative adverse impacts resulting from pressures to land or seascapes from multiple users within a species’ range of habitat, including for migratory species.