Land and biodiversity
AWAC has a significant physical footprint which encompasses the land it uses and leases for mining, refining and smelting activities in:
- United States, and
- Saudi Arabia.
In the Darling Range in Western Australia, alone AWAC has mine leases for over 7,000 km2. (For more information on mine leases see Alumina Limited's 2013 Form 20F pages 23 to 29.)
Land disturbance and rehabilitation
In regards to mining operations, AWAC operates under the mandate that mining is a temporary use of the land and it supports returning mined land to a sustainable future. In most cases that means returning the land to its pre-mining condition with the same diversity of plant and animal species.
Bauxite mining, which is done in relatively shallow pits, disturbs the land and disrupts its biodiversity. Mining accounts for the majority of land that is disturbed as a result of AWACs operations. As the joint venture is committed to minimising the disturbance of the original habitat and work closely with community and regulatory stakeholders to restore those lands we do impact to the most productive use possible, including, where feasible, re-establishing pre-operating conditions.
Some AWAC operations are within or adjacent to protected areas or sensitive bio diverse areas.
|Operational Site||Site location & size||Position||Biodiversity Value|
|Huntly and Willowdale bauxite mines||Jarrah Forest, Western Australia - 712,900 hectares (1,761,614 acres)||Within protected area||Reconsed by Conservation International as an international biodiversity hotpost; trhreatened species and ecological communities (International Union for Conservation of Naure - IUCN- and federal governement listed)|
|Anglesea Power station and coal mine||Anglesea, Victoria Australia - 7,221 hectares (17,843 acres)||Within and adjacent to protected area||Adjacent land zoned for conservation and listed on the National Estate Register; threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN and federal government listed)|
|Wagerup alumina refinery||Wagerup, Western Australia - 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres)||Contains portions of area of biodiversity value||Ramsar listed wetlands adjacent; threatened species and ecological communities (International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and federal government listed)|
|Portland aluminium smelter||Portland, Victoria Australia - 500 hectares (1,236 acres)||Adjacent to protected area||Threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN and federal government listed)|
|Juruti bauxite mine (railway and port facility)||Juruti, Brazil - 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) that will be mined||Within protected area||Amazon rainforest and river; threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN listed)|
|Paranam bauxite mine (bauxite mine that ceased operation in October 2015||Paramaribo, Suriname - 37,000 hectares (91,429 acres)||Adjacent to protected area||Adjacent to IUCN protected area; threatened species (IUCN listed)|
|Point Comfort alumina Refinery||Point Comfort, Texas USA - 1,417 hectares (3,501 acres)||Adjacent to protected area||Native grassland and intertidal emergent marsh (protected under the Clean Water Act); threatened species (IUCN and federal government listed)|
In 2015, AWAC had four active bauxite mining areas and one active coal mine. The 2015 total open area includes a number of inactive mines. AWAC’s stake in the Jamaican bauxite mine was sold in late 2014 and mining ceased in Suriname in late 2015 following full curtailment of the refinery. Also in 2015, the Anglesea coal mine ceased operation due to the closure of the Anglesea power station that used to feed the now closed Point Henry smelter. Substantial increases in the minimum footprint targets at AWAC’s Juruti mine in Brazil due to increased production and at the Huntly mine in Western Australia due to delays in rehabilitation caused by a decision to eradicate potential infection of haul roads by a naturally occurring soil pathogen.
In Suriname, AWAC’s Suralco operations developed an integrated closure planning framework to facilitate viable and sustainable future land use for mined out areas. Closure plans for five mine sites have been submitted to the Government of Suriname for review.
Mining operations at the Juruti mine in Brazil continue to innovate in rehabilitation practices. They have employed a nucleation technique for rehabilitation that which relies on locally adapted plants and animals colonising micro-environments. This has resulted in more rapid and effective restoration of disturbed areas.
Results and goals 2015
During 2015, progress was made in monitoring and reducing the collective mining footprint to the minimum required for efficient resource recovery.
Legacy mined areas are reducing or eliminating; each of our mining operations is challenged to work toward the minimum footprints for active mining and supporting infrastructure agreed to in 2012; sharing best practices across our operations; and actively tracking and reporting upon progress.
The target is to reduce the active mining footprint to approximately 4,400 hectares (10,900 acres) by 2020. This target is adjusted annually and has increased slightly from 2012 due to a re-evaluation of operational requirements at AWAC’s Juruti Mine in Brazil that occurred in 2013. At the end of 2013, there was 15,138 hectares (37,407 acres) of open mine area.
The rehabilitation target is to achieve a five-year rolling average land disturbance/mine rehabilitation ratio of 0.75:1 by 2020 and 1:1 by 2030. A ratio of 1:1 will result in a neutral impact from future mining activities.
The 2020 goal equates to rehabilitating four hectares (9.9 acres) of land for every three hectares (7.4 acres) that is disturbed. This ratio is to reduce legacy disturbance and keep rehabilitation current with future mining disturbance, thereby avoiding creation of an inventory of disturbed mine lands.
|Area Disturbed Annual||Area Rehabilitated Annual|
*expressed in hectares
Caption: The values in this table include some for Alcoa’s South American operations that do not form part of AWAC operations. However the vast majority of disturbance and subsequent rehabilitation is the result of AWAC’s mining and infrastructure activities. During 2010 and 2011, the Huntly Mine in Western Australia constructed a new crusher site while continuing to operate the existing facility. This infrastructure project contributed to the increase of disturbed areas. Area disturbed means annual land used in each reported year for mining or for mining infrastructure (eg. roads, shops, crushing equipment, conveyors). Area rehabilitated means annual land returned to natural conditions or to productive use (such as farming) after mining or decommissioning the mine infrastructure in each reported year. Data from the CBG mine in Africa, in which AWAC is a minority partner is not included because CBG management has not yet accepted AWAC’s rehabilitation target and minimum environmental footprint philosophy.
At the end of 2013, each mine provided actual data for the current year and projections through 2018 to facilitate the review of progress against the goals. In conjunction with this review, some of AWAC’s mining operations undertook more in-depth inventories of their open lands. Others have made significant progress in both reducing their current footprint and making aggressive projections for further reductions over the next five years.
Based on actual data from 2010 through 2013, combined with projections for the following two years, we believe that the five-year average ratio will be 1.08:1 by 2015. This is a continued improvement on past performance and, in conjunction with the progress toward minimum footprint, puts the group on track to meet or exceed the 2020 sustainability target of a 0.75:1 ratio
The bauxite mine at Juruti is AWAC's newest mine. Work commenced on the mine and mine infrastructure in 2008. This start-up work resulted in a legacy disturbance of land. The near-term mine plan at this location anticipates deeper bauxite deposits, which has resulted in a corresponding increase in open area for the foreseeable future. As a result, the ratio of disturbance to rehabilitation for Juruti from 2010 through 2014 is now expected to be approximately 2.7:1.
Since 2012, the Juruti Mine has adopted the practice of using mined-out pits as disposal lakes to capture the sediments from the bauxite beneficiation facility. While this will serve to limit the overall area of disturbance, it also means that a number of the pits will not be available for rehabilitation as quickly.
The Willowdale and Huntly mines in Western Australia are working to increase the area of rehabilitation following some significant modifications in their operations over the past few years that have resulted in an increase in open area. For example, the Huntly Mine, which is AWAC’s largest bauxite mine, constructed a new crusher site in 2012 while the existing site continued to operate fully. This commitment of additional land to infrastructure also increased our net disturbed areas.
Area rehabilitated (hectares)
*Annual figures. Area rehabilitated means annual land returned to natural conditions or to productive use (such as farming) after mining or decommissioning of mine infrastructure in each reported year. During 2010 and 2011, internal agreements with Suralco mine operations were reached that released approximately 200 hectares of land for rehabilitation each year in the Marowijne District (Coermotibo mines). Active mining ceased in Marowijne in 2015
More information on Alcoa’s land rehabilitation process is available through their online sustainability report: http://www.alcoa.com/sustainability/en/info_page/resources_env_land_management.asp
Biodiversity management is a major part of the mine rehabilitation process. It is an essential practice for operations near regions where there are significant flora and fauna species (such as the jarrah forest Darling Range of Western Australia, and at Juruti near the Amazon in Brazil) areas recognised as sensitive eco-systems.
Decisions on future land use and preparation of rehabilitation plans are contingent on determining and maintaining the biodiversity of the area. In assessing the reconstruction of biodiversity in rehabilitated areas tree establishment and growth are regularly monitored. This includes reviewing the concentration of undergrowth and diversity. Regular reviews are also undertaken on establishment of birds, mammals, reptiles and insect life. Ground and surface water levels and quality is also monitored.
AWAC’s mining activities, although often limited to relatively small pits where bauxite exists, can affect a region because the pits must be connected by haul roads or conveyors. We work successfully to prevent the isolation of wildlife and the disruption of stream flows. We also maintain vegetation cover and the quality and quantity of both surface and groundwater. Our Western Australia operations have extensive programs around the management of soil erosion, weeds, feral animals, and forest pathogens to minimize impacts on biodiversity.
Our mining operations can alter rainfall runoff patterns and surface and ground water hydrology. We monitor and manage these situations to preserve biodiversity. For example, frequent monitoring of more than 50 stream locations within our mining lease in Western Australia has revealed negligible impacts from mining activities on stream quality and biodiversity. AWAC’s manager Alcoa has committed to not explore or operate in World Heritage sites. They have also committed to avoiding legally designated protected areas where strict nature conservation is the management objective. Prior to developing an area, Alcoa conducts extensive evaluations of the areas biodiversity to determine future rehabilitation programs. Evaluations include monitoring plant growth, density and diversity. A review is also conducted of birds, mammals, reptiles and including insects.
One of the challenges recognised by Alcoa in managing AWAC sites is measuring biodiversity management performance since it is difficult to find a metric that can be aggregated across diverse businesses. There is an aspirational goal to provide a net positive impact on biodiversity at every location AWAC operates however as yet it has not been possible to develop a common, quantifiable global goal that measures such impact.
All locations with substantive biodiversity values and land holdings had a sustainability target to develop a biodiversity action plan by the end of 2015 that:
- Identifies the biodiversity values of the land, including sensitive habitats and the presence of threatened species and communities, in context with surrounding land;
- Pinpoints potential impacts, both positive and negative;
- Develops a management plan based on the hierarchy of biodiversity mitigation measures—avoid > minimize > rectify > compensate
- Inform employees and communities where AWAC operates about the importance of biodiversity protection, and encourage their participation in biodiversity initiatives, and
- Set and report performance against site-specific targets.
Results and goals in 2015
In 2015 biodiversity action plans were developed by Western Australian mining operations, Juruti mine in Brazil and the Portland aluminium smelter in Australia. They will act as blueprints for other locations to follow.
The Plans will:
- identify the biodiversity values of the land, including sensitive habitats and the presence of threatened species and communities, in context with surrounding land
- pinpoint potential impacts, both positve and negative
- develop a managment plan based on the hierarchy of biodiversity mitigation measures - avoid>minimise>rectify>compensate
- inform employees and communities where AWAC operates about the importance of biodiversity protection, and encourage their particpation in biodiversity initiatives, and
- set and report performance against site-specific targets.
For more on Alcoa’s land rehabilitation process click here