Copper is a widely used metal essential to life and imperative for the modern transition to a sustainable future. Used in electrical wiring, construction materials and a range of other applications, demand for this versatile metal is only expected to grow in the coming years. However, the copper industry has a significant impact on the environment, raising concerns about the sustainability of copper production and the long-term effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.
One way the copper industry addresses these concerns is through nature-positive solutions and responsible production practices that prioritize environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.
Nature-Positive Solutions at the Copper Mine
Nature-positive solutions ensure societies go beyond environmental protection efforts to develop new systems that regenerate and restore nature and biodiversity.
Copper mines are implementing reclamation and restoration projects to restore ecosystems and habitats that have been disturbed by mining activities. For example, Boliden set goals to increase biodiversity in all regions where they operate by 2030, using scientific approaches to avoid damage, minimize impact, increase restoration efforts and offset any residual effects. Mitsubishi Materials Corporation is part of the 30 by 30 Alliance for Biodiversity, an initiative of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment to help reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Freeport-McMoRan has similar initiatives that “review and evaluate the environmental effects of [our] activities throughout the mining and processing life cycle” and plan and conduct their operations to “optimize the economic use of resources while minimizing adverse environmental effects, with a focus on climate, water, biodiversity, air, tailings, waste, mine closure and reclamation.” Freeport-McMoRan has numerous biodiversity initiatives in place, fighting poachers in Indonesia and winning multiple international awards for its protection of endangered species and conservation programs.
Restoration projects often focus on native vegetation, soil stabilization and water management to help restore the natural balance of the environment. These efforts can reduce the environmental impact of mining and promote biodiversity conservation, ensuring copper production remains sustainable over the long term. In addition, restoration projects can also focus on biological diversity. ICA and CDA member Rio Tinto has invested in restoring bird populations through their Kennecott Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve, which has seen a 300 percent increase in the number of birds on the reserve since its opening in 1996.
Across the copper industry, ICA and CDA members are enabling innovative technologies and practices to reduce the environmental impact of mining operations. Many copper mines, for example, have employed water recycling and treatment systems to minimize water use and prevent the release of pollutants into the environment. Other innovations include using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, in mining operations to diminish the carbon footprint of copper production.
Many ICA and CDA members promote sustainability and biodiversity conservation through collaboration with local communities and indigenous peoples to ensure mining activities are conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner. This includes engaging with stakeholders to identify and mitigate potential environmental and social impacts, as well as working to build local capacity and support sustainable development initiatives. By working closely with local communities and stakeholders, the copper industry seeks to ensure mining operations are aligned with the needs and priorities of the people who live in surrounding areas.
While the copper industry does impact the environment, it also takes steps to promote overall sustainability and biodiversity conservation through nature-positive solutions and responsible production practices. From reclamation and restoration projects to innovative technologies and community engagement, the copper industry is working to minimize its environmental footprint and ensure copper production remains sustainable over the long term. By taking these steps, the copper industry promotes a more sustainable and equitable future for all.