Our planet currently faces an unprecedented and accelerating rate of biodiversity loss that will have significant long-term global implications, with around one million species currently threatened with extinction. Biological diversity in all its forms, from genes, to species and ecosystems, is essential to maintain the services that we all depend on for the clean air, water, and food needed to survive, and the habitats we depend on to regulate our climate. Rapid declines in biodiversity represent an existential threat to humanity. BHP recognises that we must take action across our operational footprint and on other land that we steward, and also contribute to global efforts at landscape scales, to help protect enough of the natural world so it can sustain the services on which the world relies to provide future value, optionality and continued prosperity.
The nature of our activities means we have a significant responsibility for biodiversity and land management. As at 30 June 2022, we owned or managed more than 8 million hectares of land and sea; however, just under 2 per cent is disturbed (physical or chemical alteration that substantially disrupts the pre-existing habitats and land cover) for our operational activities. The area we own or manage has decreased by 8 per cent from FY2021, predominantly due to the merger of our Petroleum business with Woodside. The other 98 per cent of land under our stewardship provides a significant opportunity to take actions that are positive for nature.
Land on which we operate
Our activities could pose inherent risks for terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity in the areas where we operate. Application of the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimise, rehabilitate and, where appropriate, apply compensatory measures) within our operational footprint, as embedded in the Our Requirements for Environment and Climate Change standard, remains a key element of our approach to Environment.
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 of BHP’s risk appetite. For example, we do not explore or extract resources within the boundaries of World Heritage listed properties.
Our operated assets are required to identify and map key features and define the area of influence for important biodiversity and/or ecosystems. In accordance with our Group-wide Risk Framework, we then undertake a risk assessment for the defined area of influence, taking into consideration relevant impacts, including any actual or reasonably foreseeable operational impacts (whether direct, indirect or cumulative), and apply the mitigation hierarchy to manage threats and opportunities to achieve our environmental objectives. For adverse residual impacts to important biodiversity and/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 – in preparation for resource extraction activities or infrastructure installation, which could completely remove a species or community if it is endangered or has a geographically restricted area of distribution.
- 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 death of animals, such as through entrapment, or illness due to consumption.
- Hydrocarbon spills – which could lead to death of animals 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 (e.g. 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.
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 migratory species.
Other land we steward - taking actions that are nature-positive
BHP has developed a global biodiversity strategy to align action across our portfolio and help deliver our 2030 healthy environment goal. A company-wide strategy enables us to clearly articulate our strategic priorities for work, which can be used to inform important decision-making processes across the full life cycle of our mining operations and other activities. This statement of our purpose for biodiversity will be used to engage and inspire our workforce: ‘By 2030, biodiversity is understood, valued and re-balanced to create ‘nature-positive’ outcomes’. Actions needed to deliver on our purpose have commenced in three strategic priority areas:
- Valuing natural capital: to ensure that biodiversity is ascribed value in BHP’s investment and operational decisions through the integration of ‘natural capital’ into strategy, planning, risk management and evaluation frameworks.
- Innovation and collaboration: partner and work with others externally to address technical biodiversity knowledge gaps, regional biodiversity policy and governance, and shared biodiversity challenges in the areas where BHP operates.
- Nature-related disclosures: disclose biodiversity-related risks, risk management and performance. BHP was selected to join the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum group, which has the goal to ‘support a shift in global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes and toward nature-positive outcomes’ via the development of a reporting framework to manage and disclose nature-related risks.
BHP’s new suite of 2030 goals adopts a healthy environment goal for biodiversity aligned with international agreements and goals and external frameworks. This goal is designed to highlight BHP’s contribution to national and global commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, by implementing nature-positive management practices on the more than 8 million hectares that BHP owns, leases and/or manages.
Asset-level actions prioritised through the strategy will be the principal delivery mechanism for achieving the 2030 goal focused on the land on which we operate and other land we steward.
Landscape scale – contributing to a resilient environment on land beyond our stewardship
BHP also looks for opportunities to contribute to a resilient environment beyond the land under our stewardship, but still within the regions where we operate, including the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We do this through our own activities and in collaboration with others.
We plan to 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$95 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.
A summary of our previous and current voluntary conservation projects is provided below.
Previous voluntary conservation projects Current voluntary conservation projects Five Rivers Conservation Area in Tasmania, Australia Raine Island in Queensland, Australia Valdivian Coastal Reserve in Chile
Terrebone Biodiversity and Resilience Program in Louisiana, USA Alto Mayo in Peru
Martu ranger program in Western Australia, Australia Kasigau Corridor in Kenya
Bush Blitz in Australia Sustainable Rivers and Forests Initiative in Texas and Arkansas, USA Ningaloo Reef Research project in Western Australia, Australia eDGES Project – environmental DNA for Global Environmental Studies in Chile and Australia ACCRI Project - Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative in Queensland and Western Australia, Australia Ocean Environmental Accounting – Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia
We renewed our alliance with Conservation International in FY2019 for a further five years. The continuing alliance is focusing on financing natural solutions that seek to address climate change and contribute to halting biodiversity loss.
Biodiversity and land management performance
BHP has operated assets in Australia, and North and South America. 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 value 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 contains 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. Species distributions for IUCN, listed species were downloaded from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT), accessed via Proteus Partners. The result reported is as at 30 June 2022. Analysis was undertaken utilising ArcGIS by identifying all species that occur within the area of influence of BHP’s operated assets, or areas where disturbance activities associated with exploration have been undertaken in the previous 12 months. Lists of species protected under national legislation were identified from relevant national databases where available. Where national databases were not available, species lists were compiled from in-house impact assessment reports and/or management plans. Where information or in-house expertise was available, a screening assessment was undertaken to remove any species that occur in biomes or habitats not impacted by the operated asset, or where the operation occurs outside of the known distribution for the species, or where surveys/monitoring has determined the species or its habitat does not occur. Where national classifications differ to that utilised by the IUCN, species have been attributed to the category that most closely aligns to their national ranking.
Note the following for Table 1:
- only nationally/internationally listed sites are included
- Extractive is 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 Designated Protected Areas (DPA) and High Biodiversity Value Areas (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 is from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT)
Table 1. Operated assets owned, leased or managed in, or adjacent to, protected areas, or areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas, as at 30 June 2022.
Note the following for Table 2:
- only nationally/internationally listed species are included
- data is from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) or national species databases (where available)
- not all countries use 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 species with habitats at our operated assets on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List or national conservation lists as at 30 June 2022.
BHP reports on land management in our ESG Standards and Databook.
Monitoring the endangered Pilbara Olive Python
A two-year monitoring program of an endangered python at our Western Australia operations is providing valuable insights into a hard to detect sub-species.