Biodiversity Management in the Extractive Sector: Challenges and Best Practices

Companies working in the mining and oil & gas sectors face significant challenges in Biodiversity Management.

This is true in both undisturbed environments and those that have already been affected by deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, collecting, or other pressures from human activities.  In tropical regions and areas where habitats of geographically isolated endemic species have already been degraded or destroyed, the impacts of extractive companies on biodiversity can be particularly severe.

Types of impacts

Biodiversity impacts in the extractive sector can include reductions in flora and fauna populations, species losses, degraded air and water quality in project-affected ecosystems, and alterations of hydrological regimes and ecosystem functions at the landscape level.  Local people can also be affected by these impacts, as their subsistence is often dependent on the use of biodiversity resources for food, shelter, income, and other ecosystem services.  This sometimes leads to discontent among local stakeholders about the consequences of project development.

Impact management

Given this context, it is essential for companies operating in the mining and oil & gas industries to intelligently make their Biodiversity Management plan.  Industry best practices emphasize avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating biodiversity impacts- in that order.  When this is not possible, businesses are encouraged to implement offset programs that achieve “no net loss” of biodiversity.  Such offset programs often try to conserve off-site ecosystems with a higher capacity than on-site ecosystems to support increased populations of target species.  Some good examples of these offsets can be found at the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program website.

International best practice and further resources

A number of good resources are available for individuals and extractive companies interested in learning more about how biodiversity impacts can be managed in line with international best practice.  The ICMM (International Council on Metals and Mining) has some excellent resources about biodiversity and mining for industry that discuss good practice guidance, biodiversity offsets, and case studies.  Similarly, IPIECA (the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association) has published a number of good practice guidance documents on biodiversity for oil & gas companies.  The good practice guidance of the now defunct EBI (Energy and Biodiversity Initiative) remains both relevant and useful. Those interested in business and biodiversity issues may also enjoy some of the insights that can be found in the Executive Summary of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report for Business.

How an ambitious mining project in Madagascar is using real-time information to ensure compliance

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