sharing in governance of extractive industries

Biodiversity and Human Rights

In March 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment presented the first-ever report on biodiversity and human rights to the Human Rights Council. The report concludes that biodiversity[1] ‘is necessary for ecosystem services that support the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and culture. In order to protect human rights, States have a general obligation to protect ecosystems and biodiversity’  

Recent decades have brought increasing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems. Extractive industries, in particular mining for minerals, precious metals, and oil and gas, have increased all around the world, over land and sea, with serious risks for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services preservation and affecting indigenous and rural populations’ livelihood. Extractive activities are being carried out in all types of ecosystems, including threatened and delicate tropical rainforests, such as those found in the Amazon region of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. For example, in this region, mining for precious metals has had a long history over the course of a century, and up until recently the toll it has taken on the ecosystem services had not even been considered.

In response, the global community has implemented a number of steps; for example, in 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force and is now one of the most widely ratified treaties in the world. In addition, SDG 15 is devoted to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

The loss of biodiversity may interfere with the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, livelihood, water, housing, and culture. Threats to biodiversity may particularly affect indigenous peoples that rely on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods and ways of life.

In addition, Environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) are facing increased risk and challenges to their environmental activism, in every region of the world. These include human rights defenders working on biodiversity issues. They have been killed, detained, threatened, intimidated, stigmatized and criminalized from both State and non-State actors.  Defenders working on land and environmental issues are amongst the most at risk, with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples saying that ‘the pattern of killings in many countries is becoming an epidemic’.[2]

The report by the UN Special Rapporteur encourages a human rights perspective in order to safeguard biodiversity around the world. Moreover, it assigns States a substantive responsibility to develop legal and institutional frameworks for the protection of biodiversity. Specifically, the report recommends that states assess the social and environmental impacts of all proposed projects and policies that may affect biodiversity; provide public information about biodiversity, including environmental and social assessments of proposals, and ensure that the relevant information is provided to those affected; facilitate public participation in biodiversity-related decisions and offer access to effective remedies for the loss and degradation of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is a key element in the International agendas. However, despite commitments substantial gaps in implementation remain.

We invite you to join our first webinar "Mainstreaming Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Human Rights into the Mining Sector - Case Study from Colombia"  Thursday 5 October 2017. This webinar is part of our October- December 2017 webinar series on Environmental Governance of the Mining Sector  that we are hosting together with the NBSAP Forum, the Swedish Environmental Protection AgencyGOXI, and UNDP

This series addresses environmental governance issues and the prevention of socio-environmental mining conflicts, and highlights experiences and lessons learned from several initiatives worldwide.  All webinars are available in English. We will offer one webinar each in Spanish, Portuguese and Mongolian. We describe the sessions and language offerings below. Register once and attend as many webinars as you want. 

The Spanish version of the webinar will take place 3 October. More info here

Register here.


Discussion questions:

  • What are the different ways extractives impact biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES)? And what are the main strategies to mitigate the impact of extractives on biodiversity?

  • Do you have any examples of biodiversity-related legislation, policies and programs that incorporate human rights obligations? For example, in your country, are biodiversity and human rights integrated in your constitution, laws on environmental protection or National Biodiversity Action Plans etc.?

  • How can all relevant stakeholders (e.g., National and local governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, private sector, etc.) address the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems?

  • In your countries, what steps have been taken to protect environmental human rights defenders working on biodiversity issues? Does your country provide effective mechanisms for defenders of biodiversity and ecosystems, such as to indigenous peoples or local communities living in areas under exploitation by others, to exercise their civil and political rights without fear of persecution?  Examples of these cases include the right to access biodiversity-related information as the basis for the rights of women, men, girls and boys to be able to participate in public consultations concerning the environment.

  •  Which groups are particularly vulnerable to the loss of biodiversity, in addition to indigenous people? 





[1] The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD))defines biodiversity as: The variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species.

[2] The father and grandfather of Filipino activist Michelle Campos were publicly executed for defending their ancestral land against mining in an attack which drove 3,000 indigenous Lumad people from their homes. Rich in natural resources, their region of Mindanao is one of the most dangerous in the world for land and environmental defenders, with 25 deaths in 2015 alone.


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Replies to This Discussion

3 Ways extractives impact biodiversity; names of locations my observations are based on are withheld)

  • Increased population migration (attracted by various opportunities, better infrastructure...) which has a direct impact on the environment. More people leads to more pressure on environment. Around ASM settlements mushrooms and bees for example tend to decrease very quickly.
  • New settlements (particularly ASM) that spring along animal migration routes disrupt natural processes
  • Use of toxic products eg mercury that affects ecosystems and biodiversity

Strategies to mitigate these impacts

  • Law enforcement i.e. monitoring supply chains are a step in the right direction
  • Promoting livelihoods outside mining
  • Sensitising consumers of products derived from extractives on their responsibility
  • Reducing poverty that often combines with mining to devastating effect on the environment

Hi Mulya,

Thanks very much for sharing three ways how extractives can impact biodiversity as well as outlining some strategies on how to mitigate these impacts.

In this context, I am sharing a resource that might be of interest. The Mining and Biodiversity Guideline was just uploaded to the Goxi Library. It provides a tool to facilitate the sustainable development of South Africa’s mineral resources in a way that enables industry and practitioners to minimise the impact of mining on the country’s biodiversity and ecosystem services.  It provides the mining sector with a practical manual for integrating biodiversity considerations into the planning processes and managing biodiversity during the operational phases of a mine, from exploration through to closure.

Any additional comments to the above questions are welcome!


Goxi Facilitator 

All the way through the mining lifecycle from exploration to closure, mining operations impact on biodiversity and ecosystems by vegetation and top soil removal, increased use of water, contamination of water and soil, population pressure (as described by Mulya) of migrant workers moving to the mine area, etc. etc.. (looong list - heavy burden!)

Some businesses have made some steps towards an improved environmental management, recognizing increasingly the risks that biodiversity loss can pose to them. One example is that with declining ecosystem services, the ‘social’ license to operate might be crumbling down. Some businesses adopted innovative internal biodiversity policies and to engage in a range of activities that conserve biodiversity and improve ecosystem functioning. These actions range from investing in projects which secure access to ecosystem services such as fresh water to restoration of forests destroyed by mining. Unfortunately, sometimes these projects remain stuck in merely greenwashing and window dressing.

In Western Australia, the mining company Alcoa runs the largest bauxite mining operation in the world. It has undertaken several efforts in terms of reforestation, to a standard well above what is required by law. The motive was an anticipated backlash of public opinion against mining.

Alcoa’s efforts in Western Australia have increased knowledge about plant species and techniques for forest regeneration. Also, they provided new gains in the restoration of biodiversity that was threatened by impacts entirely unrelated to mining, such as introduced viruses and non-native species (Balmford, 2012). This sort of initiative shows just how important the actions of business can be.

Unfortunately, it is my impression that the above case is rather an exception than the rule – unless you Goxians show me wrong?

Policy wise, policies which incentivize businesses to manage these biodiversity risks should be prioritized. For this I gladly refer to an OECD paper of 2012: https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/Business,%20Biodiversity%20and%20E...

Also, a simple fear for a perceived negative image is by far a strong argument, whereas a true recognition and valorization of biodiversity and ecosystem services often stays outside the picture. Or might that challenge the opportunity cost of the mining operation in itself?

Would be great to hear about other examples from Goxi members across the world how businesses have started to improve environmental management to save biodiversity. 

Thanks for sharing these examples Piet and Mulya. Although companies making biodiversity a part of core business is still a challenge, an interesting example was shared at a side event on how oil, gas and mining companies can contribute to achieving the SDGs, which was co-hosted by UNDP, IFC, IPIECA and ICMM on September 20th. It called the cross sector biodiversity initiative, which involves the investors in the mining initiatives as well as companies - it focuses on mainstreaming / implementing mitigation strategies for biodiversity loss – working towards a minimum of no net loss and ideally a net gain of biodiversity. It works at the policy level, but provides a guidance for mining, oil and gas companies looking to make biodiversity part of core business

HI Piet

Guessama underground copper mine owned by Managem, near Marrakech in Morocco is ISO 1400- certified; conditions in the region are perfect for olive trees. I didn't see much biodiversity on the 35km-drive to the mine except for some olive trees, little shrubs, sheep, and cactuses here and there...I guess that's natural and normal for semi desert regions of North Africa. The mine site offers a different picture; 425h of the ground surface is covered with 15 000 healthy olive trees managed by the community....mostly village women.  I also noticed more of the same species I saw on my way to the site lining up access roads and around the main office block.

I didn't see huge concrete buildings or metal structures as you would expect on a lot of mines but modest ones that seem to fit with their surroundings.



           GOXI Partners


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