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Green Horizons: Safeguarding areas of outstanding natural beauty

The world is full of beautiful landscapes that are under threat – and once lost, they may be gone forever.

ICMM members have committed to helping create a nature positive future, halting and reversing biodiversity loss and safeguarding areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Since 2003, an important part of this has been a pledge to protect and conserve areas critical for biodiversity and cultural heritage by neither mining nor exploring in UNESCO World Heritage sites.

What is more, they are committed to restoring and enhancing landscapes in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, land-connected peoples and local communities.

Atlantic Forest, Brazil

Vale actively protects and supports of an area of approximately 1 million hectares, which is approxiamately 10 times the footprint of its operational sites. The Vale Natural Reserve (RNV) is an important part of this, a protected area owned by Vale with approximately 23,000 hectares of Atlantic Forest formations.

Home to more than 4,000 known plant and animal species, including endemic and endangered species like the Harpy Eagle and the Red-billed Curassow. In 2008, the VRN was recognised as an Advanced Post of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme. Together with the Sooretama Biological Reserve (Rebio Sooretama) – an area with 27,000 hectares supported by Vale – it forms the largest continuous remnant of the Atlantic Forest in the southeast of Brazil.

RNV also plays a fundamental role in ex situ conservation, with an herbarium comprising more than 17,000 samples of Atlantic Forest species and one of the largest seedling nurseries in Brazil that support the conservation of the Atlantic Forest’s endangered plant species.

Protecting forests, Mongolia

The Healthy Forest Project was launched by a partnership of Rio Tinto, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia (MET) and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) in 2022 to halt and reverse the loss of Mongolia’s forests.

Research conducted by MET’s Forest Research and Development Centre in 2021 found that Mongolia’s forests are experiencing severe outbreaks of forest defoliators – insects and pests feeding on the trees and causing die-back. The study found that without immediate action, an estimated 1.1 billion trees would be lost and up to 126,000 hectares of forest area would be severely degraded.

Rio Tinto is contributing MNT 7.4 billion (~US$ 2.2 million) to support the project to treat over 300,000 hectares of at-risk forests and protect them from defoliators using innovative techniques, as well as building national capacity for forest sustainable management in Mongolia.

Choapa Valley, Chile

Minera Los Pelambres of Antofagasta Minerals is protecting and conserving an area of almost 27,000 hectares, equivalent to seven times that used by the Los Pelambres mine operation, in the varied landscape of the Choapa Valley in Chile.

The nature sanctuaries include a coastal wetland that had been abandoned before Los Pelambres undertook its restoration. This is a key staging area (or resting spot) for migratory birds and is recognised under the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and was the first Chilean Ramsar Site protected by a private company.

Also protected are areas that are home to endemic or endangered species such as the Chilean palms and myrtles, as well as a ‘relict’ forest of olivillo, that has survived the area’s semi-arid climate, thanks to the coastal fog.

Quintero Bay, Chile

Since 2013, Codelco has been working on ecological restoration activities in the Los Maitenes-Campiche wetlands, close to the Ventanas site in Quintero Bay, northwest of Santiago, Chile.

The programme has focused on habitat creation through innovative revegetation practices, using biorolls (a carpet-like material made of natural fibres) to establish typha – a water-loving perennial plant that is indigenous to the area.

Throughout, the project team has monitored key environmental indicators in the wetlands, including wildlife, vegetation and the chemical and biological composition of the water in the ecosystem.

Biodiversity in the area has improved markedly over the past decade, with an increase in the richness and abundance of species. Nationally protected birds such as the cuervo de pantano (white-faced ibis) and coscoroba swan are now making their homes in the wetlands.

Throughout the world, ICMM members are safeguarding areas of natural beauty for the future. Landscape-scale projects are key to halting and reversing nature loss, and are most effective when conducted in collaboration with local communities, corporate partners, NGOs and governments.