Biodiversity Offsets and Enhancements in Mining

Kumtor and Biodiversity CoverA recent BBOP newsletter and Kumtor Gold’s development of its Biodiversity Management Strategy underlined this: many (perhaps not all) roads lead to Rome and positive conservation outcomes. Does Kumtor's approach to support snow leopard and other conservation efforts in Central Asia add value? Will it's collaboration with NGOs such as FFI, the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve  (Zapovednik) and others work?

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A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with John Aronson’s team at AATA International and contribute to the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of Gold Reserve Inc.’s $750 million Brisas Project in Venezuela. This was during the formative days of the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program (BBOP) and newly emerging IFC Performance Standards (see also IFC Performance Standards:Lessons Learned).

While spearheading the social aspects of the Brisas Project ESIA, we also pursued biodiversity offset and enhancement opportunities aligned with IFC Performance Standard 6 and the Equator Principles. This work resulted also in a couple of fun publications in Mining, Environment and Communities magazine and the Magazine (download as PDF here: Biodiversity Offset in Mining Article).

These articles were co-authored by my colleague, Dr. Don Proebstel. He is a conservation biologist (among plenty of other expertise) and is currently collaborating with me in Central Asia (see below). Don and I are both happy to see that the Brisas case study has been featured as a good example of voluntary offset in important biodiversity offset-related publications. These range from BBOP’s Compensatory Conservation Case Studies (2009) to UNEP’s Biodiversity offsets: voluntary and compliance regimes (2012).

Fast forward to today. While the Brisas case study was located in tropical forests of the Guyana Shield in Venezuela, we have also had an opportunity to consider entirely different biodiversity (and political?) issues in the high altitude Tien Shan mountains of Central Asia. The amazing wildlife here includes snow leopards and its prey, the Marco Polo sheep (argali) and Ibex (in addition to an occasional snack of livestock).

Recently, Kumtor web-posted a document entitled “Kumtor and Biodiversity”  which summarizes the results of the work to which Don and I contributed (see also here: Biodiversity Management Strategy & Plan for Gold Mine). It is the first such strategy and plan developed by a mining company in the Kyrgyz Republic.

The document highlights the regional biodiversity context, some of which gave rise to interesting ‘political side shows’ (Creating Paper Parks or Biodiversity Value in Kyrgyzstan? and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Babanov Visited Kumtor Mine – and me too!), identifies Kumtor’s strategy and collaborative biodiversity enhancement opportunities, and signals next steps.

These steps will involve Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which has signed an MOU with Kumtor. FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body operating in more than 40 countries worldwide. The Kyrgyz State Agency of Environmental Protection has recognized FFI’s activities by awarding it with Honorary Diplomas in recognition of its conservation initiatives and achievements in Kyrgyzstan (see here).

You can access the “Kumtor and Biodiversity”, a summary document, in English, Russian and Kyrgyz. You can also download the full Kumtor Biodiversity Management Strategy and Plan. I am curious about your thoughts on challenges and opportunities faced by Kumtor. Will this gold mine be able to continue to contribute to the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the Kyrgyz Republic?

Prizma will be discussing this case study, along with representatives from Kumtor and FFI, at the Ethical Corporation’s 4th annual CSR for Extractives Industries Summit, April 3-4, 2013, London (see here).