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BHP and Conservation International

Mitigation Hierarchy

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The nature of our activities means we have a significant responsibility for land and biodiversity management. BHP owns or manages more than 8 million hectares of land and sea; however, less than 2 per cent of it is disturbed for our operational activities.

We are committed to the effective management of risks associated with our operated assets and to contributing to a resilient environment beyond the immediate areas of our operational activities. Supporting conservation efforts beyond our footprint is also a targeted way of creating value for society in line with Our Purpose and Our Charter value of Sustainability.

Responsibly managing land and supporting biodiversity

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.


Our biodiversity targets

In FY2018, we renewed our five-year public target for biodiversity and also introduced a longer-term goal.

Our FY2018-FY2022 target for biodiversity is to improve marine and terrestrial biodiversity outcomes by:

  • developing a framework to evaluate and verify the benefits of our actions, in collaboration with others
  • contributing to the management of areas of national or international conservation significance exceeding our disturbed land footprint

Our longer-term FY2030 goal for biodiversity is in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 14 and 15, BHP will, by FY2030, have made a measurable contribution to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of marine and terrestrial ecosystems in all regions where we operate.

We started work on the biodiversity indicators framework for our five-year target in FY2018 and are progressing this work through our alliance with Conservation International and through Proteus, a voluntary partnership between the United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and 12 extractive industry companies.

During FY2020, we continued to pilot the framework’s methodology at a number of BHP operated assets and projects, and we shared our findings as part of the Proteus-led framework development process and at industry forums. We intend to use the framework to track achievement of our longer-term (FY2030) biodiversity goal, as set out above. We also intend to use the framework to track and monitor biodiversity status and trends for our operated assets, in a more meaningful way.

Biodiversity and land management performance

BHP has operated assets in Australia and North, Central and South America, including off-shore petroleum. Extractive operational activities include rights to resources below the surface. BHP also owns or leases pastoral or farming land near a number of our mining and exploration sites in Australia. Details of protected areas or areas of high biodiversity values that occur within or adjacent to our operated asset sites are available below in Table 1.

The area of influence for BHP’s operated assets contain habitats for a number of species listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List or considered threatened under national legislation. Information on the total number of species with habitats potentially impacted by our operated assets is available below in Table 2.

Protected species were identified by reference to the World Database on Protected Areas, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas, which we access via the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) through our Proteus partnership. The result reported is as at 30 June of the year of reporting. Species distributions for IUCN-listed species were analysed utilising ArcGIS by identifying all species that occur within the area or influence of BHP's operated assets, or areas where disturbance activities have been undertaken in the previous 12 months. Lists of national species were identified from relevant national databases, where available. A screening assessment was undertaken to remove any species that occur in biomes or habitats not impacted by the operated asset, or that occur out of known distributions of that species. Where national classifications differ to that utilised by the IUCN, species have been attributed to the designation that most closely aligns to their national ranking.

Table 1 lists our operated assets owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas as at 30 June 2020.

Note the following for Table 1: 

  • Sites only included that are listed at an international or national level.
  • Extractive defined as mining, exploration, closure activities relating to mining, including transportation. Manufacturing/production includes pastoral activities, refineries and other locations where products are made. Some operated assets may include both, but for purposes of disclosure refers to the activity that has the highest operational footprint.
  • In the Area = The entire operated asset occurs within the DPA/HBVA boundary or the entire DPA/HBVA site occurs within the boundary of the operated asset. Adjacent to = The operated asset occurs within 500 metres of the boundary. Contains portions of = The operated asset contains some but not all of the DPA/HBVA site or the DPA/HBVA site contains some but not all of the operated asset.
  • Data obtained for this table from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT).

Table 1. Operational sites owned, leased, managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas as at 30 June 2020 (PDF)

Note the following for Table 2:

  • Species only included that are listed at an international or national level.
  • Data obtained for this table from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) or national species databases (where available).
  • Not all countries utilise IUCN rankings. In these cases, species have been attributed to the designation that most closely aligns to their national ranking.

Table 2. Total number of IUCN Red List species and national conservation list species with habitats in areas affected by the operated assets of BHP as at 30 June 2020 (PDF)

Contributing to a resilient environment

BHP looks for opportunities to improve the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, outside our operational footprint, in all regions in which we operate - through our own activities and in collaboration with others.

We work with strategic partners and communities to invest in voluntary projects that contribute to the management of areas of national or international conservation significance for the benefit of future generations through our Social Investment strategy.

Since 2011, we have committed more than US$78 million to biodiversity conservation through our alliance with Conservation International and with other partners. We look for projects that can provide multiple benefits such as improving water quality or quantity, providing nature-based solutions to climate change and supporting local livelihoods or cultural benefits, in addition to the core objective of improving biodiversity conservation.

Projects we have previously invested in include: 

We renewed our alliance with Conservation International in 2019 for a further five years. The continuing alliance will focus on financing natural solutions that seek to address climate change and contribute to halting biodiversity loss, and on developing the framework to support BHP’s efforts in evaluating and verifying the benefits of our actions on biodiversity through operational and social investments.

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