Producing the materials the world needs requires access to land. However, mines are finite and as temporary custodians of the land, we need to consider the end right from the very start, planning and operating with the future in mind. Caring for the land is also essential to the protection of biodiversity and the natural heritage of the environments where we live and work.
We have rehabilitation programmes in place, which are reviewed every year, and dedicated teams that look after the land throughout the life of the operation. Our engineers, environmental scientists and cultural heritage experts work with academic institutions, civil society organisations, Indigenous peoples and other members of the community to make sure rehabilitation is done in ways that ensure a successful, self-sustaining outcome in line with the expectations of regulators and host communities.
Land as culture
When we begin exploration, long before our operations start, we work with local communities, including Indigenous peoples, to understand the physical, spiritual and cultural connection they have with the land. We conduct cultural heritage and environmental studies to understand the area and look for ways to avoid or reduce any impacts.
We strive to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples, as applicable in local jurisdictions, and also engage other affected communities. We were the first mining company in Australia to welcome native title to land and commit to forming agreements with Indigenous landowners. But we know we need to do better.
We share our learnings with our operations globally, and with our industry partners. For example, we were founding members of the Proteus Partnership, a unique collaboration between the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and extractive industries. In 2020 we renewed this partnership to extend it for a further five years.
The partnership is focused on improving internationally accepted information and data on protected areas and biodiversity, to support decision-making on conservation and help partners like us ensure that impacts are mitigated effectively. This information includes private sector contributions and is available through the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT).
We also use these tools to understand more about protected areas within or adjacent to potential exploration projects, so we can understand risk and make decisions on how to proceed to ensure our future footprint does not negatively impact areas of biodiversity importance.