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What is No Net Loss, and how can it be a tool for nature positive action?

Nature is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with severe consequences to the global economy as well as wildlife. 

At its heart, a biodiversity No Net Loss commitment helps companies examine and understand the impact of their operations to enable them to act accordingly. The No Net Loss (NNL) approach helps companies to measure and quantify biodiversity – identifying any losses occurring at operations and ensuring that these are minimised, reversed and lastly balanced by gains elsewhere.

Achieving NNL of biodiversity is a core foundation of nature positive action and ICMM members are already implementing NNL approaches.

Conservation and rehabilitation

Teck is aiming to conserve or rehabilitate at least three hectares for every one hectare affected by its mining activities, as part of its nature positive commitment. 

It will concentrate on three key areas to do this: making nature-positive decisions, aiming for rehabilitation excellence and conserving increasing amounts of land that is affected by mining operations. 

Teck has already conserved 14,000 hectares of land, which is equivalent to 40 per cent of its mining footprint. This conservation work has included reclaiming a closed river mine, creating a high value wetland ecosystem on a salt flat, protecting Little Tern, an endangered Chilean bird, and working to increase the numbers of caribou in a British Columbian herd.

Similarly, Anglo American has its own net positive impact (NPI) commitment, ensuring that any biodiversity loss must be outweighed by gains in the same location.

To deliver this commitment, it is partnering with international bodies like Fauna & Flora, an international biodiversity NGO, and the Proteus Partnership, which discloses global environmental information so that organisations can make better decisions.

Anglo American also runs a biodiversity protection and rehabilitation programme at its Minas-Rio mine in Brazil. The surrounding area is noted for its rich biodiversity and wide variety of native plant and animal life, but forest cover has declined. Anglo American is already investing in biodiversity offsets to promote reforestation in this region.

Internal expertise

Vale is working to prevent and offset impacts in areas of high biodiversity value. The company has created a set of internal standards based on the biodiversity impact mitigation hierarchy which comprises four steps: Avoid, Mitigate/Minimise, Restore and Offset.

Vale’s Carajás Mine in Brazil embodies this biodiversity management at work. Changes to the mine’s layout have prevented the deforestation of a thousand hectares of trees and also connected previously isolated forest patches. The site’s commitment to sustainable practices also driven a 70 per cent reduction in fuel consumption, a 50 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a 93 per cent reduction in water consumption.

Maximising the benefit

At the Paragominas mine in the state of Pará in northern Brazil, Hydro has a time-bound rehabilitation target. For each available mined hectare, the same hectare is reforested within two years after mining. 

For 95 per cent of its reforestation activity, Hydro has chosen a method called nucleation which maximises the benefit to the area’s biodiversity. It does this by reusing branches, roots and organic soil rich in nutrients and seeds to better mimic nature.

The company also uses natural regeneration and traditional planting techniques. In 2022, Mineração Paragominas planted 75,449 seedlings of 131 species from 39 families of native plants, such as the yellow ipê, copaíba, ingá-de-macaco, and fava acorn.

The new ICMM nature commitments build upon the existing No Net Loss approach and reaffirms its importance in contributing to a nature positive future. From developing sophisticated internal standards to inviting external experts to assess their work, work towards conserving, restoring and boosting nature is well under way.