We are committed to the effective management of land and biodiversity risks, and to contributing to a resilient environment beyond the immediate areas of our operational activities. Supporting conservation efforts beyond our footprint is also a 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 pose 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, minimise, rehabilitate and, where appropriate, apply compensatory measures) to any potential and/or residual adverse impacts on marine or terrestrial ecosystems. Rehabilitation is undertaken to meet an agreed post-disturbance land use that is agreed upon with the relevant government regulator and other stakeholders. Post-disturbance land use can range from agricultural land to native ecosystems. In some locations, BHP undertakes additional measures to restore the land to pre-disturbance condition or better in order to achieve enhanced biodiversity outcomes for threatened species or communities.
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 enable 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 – land or seabed clearing 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.
- 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 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 framed in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) 14 and 15: by FY2030, we will 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 FY2021, we continued to refine the framework’s methodology for application at our operated assets and we will share 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 FY2030 biodiversity goal. We also intend to use the framework to refine how we track and monitor biodiversity status and trends at our operated assets.
Biodiversity and land management performance
BHP has operated assets in Australia and North, Central and South America, including offshore petroleum assets. 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 2021. 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/oil and gas extraction, exploration, closure activities relating to mining/oil and gas extraction, 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)
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
Contributing to a resilient environment
BHP also looks for opportunities to contribute to a resilient environment beyond our operational footprint, 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 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$85 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.
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 2019 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, 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.
Saving endangered green turtles on the Great Barrier Reef
In 2015, we began collaborating on a major project to protect and restore critical green turtle and seabird habitat in the Great Barrier Reef.