Biodiversity & Positioning – Problem or Solution?

At a recent workshop facilitated by Prizma, stakeholders welcomed Kumtor Gold’s efforts to pursue the development of a biodiversity management strategy and related collaboration with stakeholders. Kumtor is the first mining company in the Kyrgyz Republic to do so. Will this address the chasm between perception and reality?

Compared to its size and small population, Kyrgyzstan boasts a disproportional endowment of biodiversity, including ‘Red Book’ listed snow leopards and Marco Polo sheep. Both species have seen a come-back at the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve which is located adjacent to the high altitude Kumtor Gold Mine. However, despite of evidence to the contrary, previous Kyrgyz Government appointed Interagency and Parliamentary Commissions criticized Centerra Gold’s Kumtor Gold Mine and asserted adverse biodiversity impacts. In response, Kumtor is repositioning itself.

As part of this process, Kumtor hosted a biodiversity focus group meeting on October 19, 2012 in Bishkek (see also Kumtor’s recent press release). This workshop was attended by representatives from the State Agency for Environment and Forestry, the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, the Naryn Nature Reserve, Kyrgyz biodiversity experts, such as Prof. Emil Shukurov, Editor of Kyrgyzstan’s “Red Book” of endangered species, conservation NGOs, such as Flora and Fauna International-Kyrgyzstan, and representatives from Kumtor. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Don Proebstel, a conservation biologist, and Mehrdad Nazari, an ESIA & CSR Advisor, with Prizma LLC.

Many interesting topics and questions emerged during the workshop, three of which are listed below:

1) Should a company’s biodiversity management strategy be subject to approval by the Governmet/multiple ministries? The Management Plan for the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, the development of which was facilitated by Flora and Fauna International with support of the EBRD, IFC and Kumtor, has been awaiting Government approval since 2008.

2) How should the only (mining) company in Kyrgyzstan expressing an interest in supporting biodiversity research, monitoring and conservation chose between the many competing needs of specially protected nature areas and stakeholders requesting support? There are over 80 protected areas in the Kyrgyz Republic and all are believed to be under-resourced.

3) What are impacts, roles and responsibilities of other important actors, such as shepherds (overgrazing), ‘hunting farms’ (international trophy hunting) and various government agencies at local and national levels?

The media coverage related to Kumtor's workshop can be downloaded here: Kyrgyz News digest (Eng) - 22Oct12. For me, valuable outcomes from the workshop included these three elements:

a) It applied a systems thinking-based approach, instilled a sense of urgency and confirmed a shared desire for collaboration.

b) It generated a shared understanding of the current state of knowledge, including identification of knowledge gaps and major drivers of impacts.

c) It identified immediate intervention opportunities for which Kumtor has now earmarked some funding.

What are your thoughts on questions raised during the workshop? Do you feel that Kumtor’s effort to develop a biodiversity management strategy and support related initiative is just ‘green washing’? Or can this contribute to transforming the mining sector in the Kyrgyz Republic to engage in and innovate biodiversity conservation in the country?

Your may also be  interested in this updateBiodiversity Management Strategy & Plan for Gold Mine


10 Comments to Biodiversity & Positioning – Problem or Solution?

  1. Mehrdad says:

    Anne Johnson left these comments on LinkedIn:

    So I may be biased or naive, but I really believe that this is a positive approach.
    Mining companies have expertise in mining and in finance. On the conservation biology front, not so much. Environmental NGOs understand ecosystems and have conservation expertise. They lack money though. It does seem to me that mining companies MUST work in the context of ECOSYSTEM management and thus must form partnerships with those who look at the bigger picture. Miners have the funds to support protection mitigation, and rehabilitation. As long as the miner is committed to taking advice and the NGO retains its integrity, this should be a win for the environment.

  2. Mehrdad says:

    Thanks for your comments, Anne. I don’t feel you are biased/naive. Allow me to share with you a related article Dr. Proebstel and I co-authored that made similar points you make: – I would add these points: many (most?) mining companies make large and captive capital investments that requires long term planning (too). Also, as you know, biodiversity expertise is not limited to NGOs (although many conservation NGOs have unique credibility in that field).

  3. Mehrdad says:

    Anne Johnson posted this on LinkedIn:
    Hi Mehrdad, I do know…my daughter is a conservation biologist working with a private sector environmental consulting company. 😉

    I will read the paper (thank you for the link) and pass it on to our fourth year sustainability and mining class. I have noted quite a lot of suspicion towards these and similar partnerships (with CIDA, WorldVision, etc.) that is based on assumptions rather than evidence, but it is responsible and appropriate to scrutinize the actual results, in order to determine the effectiveness of such partnerships.

  4. Mehrdad says:

    Kerry Ground left these comments on LinkedIn
    I agree with the comments made by you both. I just finished researching Canadian mining companies operating in the Philippines and the contextual factors that enable or impede effective implementation of CSR practices. After speaking with stakeholders from all groups – government, industry, civil society, anti-mining – I found the majority welcome the idea of company-NGO partnerships. Of course there are risks involved, such as the NGOs integrity and companies actually listening to NGO recommendations (as mentioned in previous comments) but I feel these partnerships are definitely a step in the right direction.

  5. Mehrdad says:

    Kerry Ground posted this on LinkedIn

    Hello Mehrdad. I do believe that often people seem to be much too concerned over the morality and motives, kind of the “what ifs…”, of these partnerships rather than focusing on the positive outcomes they could have. For me, I think that these partnerships seem like a very viable option, especially in places where there isn’t strong governance and/or high levels of corruption within the government system. From my research I found that the Canadian industry, as a whole, genuinely wants to improve and help surrounding communities, which is also the mission of many of the NGOs working on the ground in those environments, so working together to achieve this seems like a step in the right direction.

  6. no name says:

    Thank you all for the insightful comments on this piece. Here in Africa we face the very daunting task of convincing NGOs organizations that there is a flip side to their obstructionist participation in mining applications. It seems that you have made head way in convincing your authorities and NGOs of the positive partnership that can be created between miners and NGOs. Your initiative is progressive and insightful, often qualities which I find lack in NGOs, who take a short sighted and demonstrative approach to development, with their first approach being to stop the development. Kyrgyz, similarly to many Provinces in Africa, have enormous social strains, with job creation being a top priority of government. The environmental NGO movement places significant strain on mining enterprises, who have the potential to bring relief to provincial government by creating jobs. Due to this dire situation, governments often finds themselves in a vice grip trying to create balance between NGO, community and mining enterprises needs. The environmental NGO and mining partnership seems to me, to be the only logical solution that will prevent the wasting of time, valuable and better spent money and significant effort expended in fighting an illogical developer vs NGO battle. I say to the NGO’s put your money where your mouth is and utilize the benefit and opportunity provided to you on a silver platter by mining enterprises to forge a path for improved biodiversity, social responsibility and whatever it is that floats your boat. You have to lose some and in certain situations you stand to gain a whole lot, because you had the forsight to see forest beyond the trees.

  7. […] About « Biodiversity & Positioning – Problem or Solution? […]

  8. […] with the development of its Biodiversity Management Strategy and Plan (BMSP). This included a stakeholder focus group workshop in Oct 2012 in Kyrgyzstan. What would you cover in such a strategy and […]

  9. […] been the center of attention of complains about the Kumtor mine about which I blogged previously (Biodiversity & Positioning – Problem or Solution? and Biodiversity Management Strategy & Plan for Gold […]

  10. […] Prizma assisted Kumtor with a variety of other projects ranging from the development of its biodiversity management strategy to training community relations officers (CROs). Interesting in learning about Prizma's other […]

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