trees, woods, sunlight

Biodiversity and land

Our planet currently faces an unprecedent and accelerating rate of biodiversity loss that will have significant long-term global implications if not addressed, with around one million species currently threatened with extinction1.

Our ambition

We acknowledge that the nature of our mining operations across their life cycle can have direct impacts on biodiversity (e.g., clearing of native vegetation), but also dependencies for safe and reliable operations on the services provided by healthy and functioning ecosystems (e.g., stable water supply and climate regulation).  


Our 2030 Healthy environment goal is designed to drive BHP’s contribution to national and global efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, by seeking to create nature-positive2 outcomes by having at least 30 per cent of the land and water we steward3 under conservation, restoration or regenerative practices by the end of FY2030. 

1UN Report: Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating' - United Nations Sustainable Development. 

2Nature positive is defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (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. 
 
3Excluding 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.  

Our approach and position

Biological diversity in all its forms, from genes to species and ecosystems, is essential to maintain the services 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 our role both in the approach we take to activities across our operational and non-operational footprint on the land and water we steward, and our contribution to global goals at landscape scales to help enable nature’s realms (land, oceans, fresh water and atmosphere) to sustain the ecosystem services on which the world relies to provide future value, optionality and continued prosperity. 

BHP has developed a Group-level biodiversity strategy to align action across our business and help deliver our 2030 Healthy environment goal. A Group-level 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.


Our purpose statement for our approach to biodiversity is used to engage and inspire our workforce: ‘By 2030, biodiversity is understood, valued and re-balanced to create ‘nature-positive’ outcomes (through our Healthy environment goal)’. Actions that we believe are needed to deliver on our purpose have commenced under our three strategic priority areas (described further in the Performance section):

  • Valuing natural capital – to ensure 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 and in our value chain; and
  • Nature-related disclosures – disclose biodiversity-related impacts and dependencies, risk management and performance. BHP was selected to join the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Forum, 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. 

Governance and oversight, engagement, disclosure and performance

  • 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. 

     

    For information on our governance of biodiversity, refer to the Environment webpage. 

  • Engagement

    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. Refer to the Performance section for detail on our biodiversity engagement.
  • Disclosure

    We report against several sustainability frameworks. For further detail, refer to the BHP ESG Standards and Databook 2023.  

  • Performance

    2030 Healthy environment goal 


    Our biodiversity-related milestones are fundamental building blocks to our pathway to achieving our 2030 Healthy environment goal.  

    We completed our FY2023 milestone of important biodiversity and ecosystems (IBE) baseline mapping for all land and water areas at our operated assets in Minerals Australia and Minerals Americas (excluding OZ Minerals and legacy assets1) with a key highlight being the use of predictive models to identify areas of high ecosystem value in BMA. 

    BHP worked with CSIRO to develop an approach to identify and map biodiversity features across three nested scales of influence: BHP’s area of influence, the area of influence buffered by 50 kilometres, and the area of influence buffered by terrestrial and marine bioregional boundaries. The output of the methodology is a geospatial database that identifies and screens individual biodiversity features against BHP’s definition of important biodiversity and ecosystems. More information on the IBE mapping work is provided in the case study here

    Group-level biodiversity strategy 

    Valuing natural capital


    The economic importance of biodiversity and assigning a value to it remains a key challenge. One approach already used by various governments at a country level is Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) – using an accounting framework to provide a systematic way of measuring and reporting on stocks of nature assets (e.g., plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people. Australian, US and UK governments are all active in NCA development. Tools such as NCA will aim to better inform decision-making and help support global goals to halt and reverse current trends in nature loss by 2030. 

    To start building our capability in NCA, we completed a pilot case study applying NCA principles to BHP’s former minerals sands site Beenup located in Western Australia. The site was closed in 1999 and rehabilitation and restoration of the site was completed over the period from 2000 to 2015. The objective of the Beenup case study was to pilot how natural capital might be valued in the mining context, to determine the data requirements to build an NCA and evaluate the use of NCA as a tool to track progress on contributing to nature-positive outcomes aligned with our 2030 Healthy environment goal. 

    The Beenup pilot case study natural capital accounting report was released publicly in May 2023 and shared with a number of organisations in which we participate, such as the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD), International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), World Economic Forum and the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre. The Beenup pilot case study is intended to be used as a guide for future studies and a basis of learning and improvement to contribute to the development of a consistent and meaningful approach to natural capital accounts in the mining sector. Learnings from the Beenup case study are now being piloted at an operational site in Minerals Australia. 

    Innovation and collaboration 

    BHP also looks for opportunities to contribute to a resilient environment beyond the areas under our stewardship, 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 also 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$99 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.  

     

     

    Nature-related disclosures  

    BHP has been supporting development of the TNFD framework both individually as a TNFD Forum member and through the ICMM. We have been piloting aspects of the framework, including the LEAP approach at a site within our Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) operations. The LEAP approach incorporates a risk and opportunity assessment that can be used to understand our impacts and dependencies on nature. The approach works through a process of locating the nature interface with the business footprint, identifying priority locations for a risk and opportunity assessment and setting targets and metrics for disclosure. Maintaining and updating fundamental tools associated with environmental management, such as key features, area of influence and risk registers to include concepts such as ecosystem services and dependencies has been a key learning from the WAIO pilot.  

    HSEC reporting data 

    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 in the BHP ESG Standards and Databook 2023

    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 in our ESG Standards and Databook 2023. Species distributions for IUCN listed species were downloaded from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) and accessed via Proteus Partners. The result reported is as at 30 June 2023. 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. 

    Refer to the BHP ESG Standards and Databook 2023 for our IUCN table disclosure.

     

    1All 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.

Risk

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 the use of carbon credits, to achieve outcomes that align with BHP’s risk appetite. 

 

Impacts and dependencies 

We have a range of potential direct, indirect or cumulative impacts on the environment, 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
  • 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, we also depend on the services provided by healthy and functioning ecosystems for safe and reliable operations, including:

  • Stable water supply – Water is integral to our business and vital to the longevity of BHP. We cannot operate without it.  Refer to the Water stewardship webpage for more information on our approach to water management. 
  • Climate regulation – Limiting the frequency and/or extremity of weather events, such as storms or flooding may damage critical infrastructure. For example, rail lines and ports are examples of a nature-related dependency that can have material effects on operations. 
  • Resistance to fire regimes – In some areas, such as in Australia, vegetation is adapted to some level of fire, however, increased frequency and intensity of fires can alter vegetation structure and may result in damage to key operational infrastructure.

Case studies