Our understanding of the potential to impact upon biodiversity-rich habitats is critical in order to ensure that impacts are managed. Furthermore, the presence of a biodiversity-rich habitat within our land holding can provide an opportunity for an operation to input to the conservation of species and ecosystems within a local or broader regional context.
In 2008, four sites indicated that they operated within immediate proximity of area of high biodiversity value. In addition, several of our exploration projects were located in and surrounding areas of conservation value. Activities which are proposed to be undertaken in close proximity to biodiversity-rich habitats will only occur following the identification of risks to biodiversity and the implementation of appropriate measures to manage potential impacts:
- Banded Iron Formations representing “islands” of priority and rare flora and fauna species exist on the western fringes of the Golden Grove leases. Although prevalent in the Midwest Region of Western Australia, the State government has limited exploration and mining development in these areas and it is likely that stringent protection measures will be introduced. As a control measure, Golden Grove avoids any exploration work in the area and has established a buffer zone to ensure separation of the area from a proposed new tailings storage facility.
- The Indonesian island of Sumatra has exceedingly high biodiversity values and a large nationally protected area lies a few kilometres to the north-east of the Martabe project site. Studies undertaken as part of the project development indicate that mining will not have significant direct impacts on this area. However, impacts will be sustained from hunting and habitat loss through deforestation. Within the Martabe site itself, biodiversity survey work in 2008 was undertaken by a team of Indonesian scientists including ornithologists (bird specialists), herpetologists (specialists in reptiles and amphibians) and vegetation ecologists. This is part of an ongoing monitoring program of established flora and fauna monitoring sites.
- Lake Johnson Nature Reserve, a 138 hectares reserve located 8 kilometres south or the Rosebery mine contains unreserved or poorly reserved rainforest communities of conservation significance; notably subalpine patches of Huon pine believed to derive from trees present on the site for over 10,000 years. Whilst no work is planned for that area, exploration has the potential to impact the habitat of the rare lichen species Menegazzia minuta known to exist on the eastern side of Mount Black. Studies of potential exploration sites in that area did not identify any species.
- Increase of the mine footprint at Sepon in 2008 has included vegetation clearance and ground disturbance as part of expansion projects. Associated with this clearance is the loss of intact forest habitat; namely high quality forest Type A (dense canopy), forest Type B (medium canopy), and forest Type C (sparse canopy). Recognising the cumulative impact of project expansion on biodiversity, Sepon aims to monitor and mitigate the effects of vegetation clearance and land disturbance. Detailed biodiversity monitoring is undertaken, which in itself can cause minor impact on biodiversity due to areas needing to be surveyed for unexploded ordinance. An internal authorisation process controls all land clearance activities, and land stabilisation and rehabilitation works occur within twelve months of an area becoming available to minimise erosion.
- In China (Inner Mongolia), the XiaSongShan Project is situated in the Helanshan National Nature Reserve. The Reserve is divided into a Core Zone, Buffer Zone, Experimental Zone and Grazing-prohibited Zone, as required by the Regulations of Nature Reserve Protection of the People’s Republic of China (1993). Approximately 60 per cent of the company’s Exploration License lies within the Experiment Zone and the remaining eastern part is within the Grazing-prohibited Zone. To manage potential impacts, a full environmental and social baseline study of the area was completed prior to work commencing. Exploration in 2008 involved non-ground disturbance activities comprising sampling, mapping and ground geophysics.