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Becoming Nature Positive in the Mining Sector

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Sustainability Leaders 15 février 2024
Sustainability Leaders 15 février 2024
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Disponible en anglais seulement

"We are seeking to integrate more nature-based solutions into all phases, from exploration through operations and into closure. But I would say it is also a challenge because it implies a cultural shift in the company that traditionally, we've gone to human-engineered solutions to our problems or to our challenges, and now it's working with people at all levels of the organization to help them think more broadly as to whether nature can help us in the challenges that we're facing." – Carleigh Whitman, Head, Nature & Closure at Teck Resources Limited 

Magali Gable, Director of Sustainable Finance, and Alice Bao, Senior Advisory, Sustainability, sat down with Carleigh Whitman to discuss how companies are incorporating nature into their decision-making and more. 

Listen to our ~15-minute episode 

Sustainability Leaders podcast is live on all major channels including Apple and Spotify.


Disponible en anglais seulement


Carleigh Whitma...: We are seeking to integrate more nature-based solutions into all phases of MineLife, from exploration through operations and into closure. But I would say it is also a challenge because it implies a cultural shift in the company that traditionally we've gone to human engineered solutions to our problems or to our challenges, and now it's working with people at all levels of the organization to help them think more broadly as to whether nature can help us in the challenges that we're facing. 


Michael Torranc...: Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer with BMO Financial Group. On the show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment business practices in our world. 


Speaker 3: The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates, or subsidiaries. 


Alice Bao: Today, we're talking about becoming nature positive in the mining sector. I'm Alice Bao, part of the sustainability office at BMO focused on disclosure and impact. I'm joined by Magali Gable, Director of Sustainable Finance at BMO, and Carleigh Whitman, Head of Nature and Closure at Teck Resources. Carleigh is an environmental lawyer with over 20 years of experience in advisory, corporate, and site-based roles in Canada and Chile. Carleigh is a senior deputy in the World Economic Forums, Champions for Nature, and a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals Nature Enclosure Working Groups. The final task force on nature related financial disclosure recommendations where TNFD were launched in September 2023. And many of us are interested to learn from companies on how they're incorporating nature into their decision making and how they operate, engage with communities, measure and monitor their impacts, and manage risks and opportunities. So we're pleased to have you Carleigh. 


Carleigh Whitma...: I'm glad to be here. Thanks for having me. 


Alice Bao: First off, can you introduce our listeners to Teck Resources? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Well to start, for those who aren't familiar with Teck, we're a leading Canadian mining company focused on providing products that are essential for a better quality of life for people around the world. 


Alice Bao: The mining sector has been managing its biodiversity impacts as part of its operations and permitting process for a long time. Can you start by telling us the intersection between the mining sector and nature? Has the release of the TNFD changed how the mining sector manages its biodiversity impacts? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Mining is a sector that both directly impacts and depends on land and ecosystem services that provides in our operations and through our value chains. At Teck, our operations are within areas of high biodiversity value and we're committed to responsibly managing biodiversity reclamation and closure and working towards securing a net positive impact on biodiversity and nature positive by 2030. And so when you ask about the TNFD, and that's something that we piloted this year, and we think that this framework will guide ours and other sectors of the economy in better understanding the risks associated with nature. 


Alice Bao: That's great to hear. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework that was adopted in December 2022 serves as the world's framework for actions to safeguard and restore biodiversity under 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. What does the global biodiversity framework mean for the mining sector or for Teck? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Well, there, as you mentioned, a lot of targets and a lot of them do have relevance to the mining sector, but the one in particular I'd like to highlight is called Target 15, which directs governments to take measures to encourage and enable business to monitor, assess and disclose risks and dependencies and impacts on biodiversity. So similar to Teck's own goals, this approach is aiming to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity, increase positive impacts, and reduce biodiversity related risks to businesses and financial institutions. And so we're expecting that as governments begin to regulate the global biodiversity framework into domestic legislation, that we will see some of these targets come into our own requirements and not just being individual companies having aspirational goals to achieve this. 


Alice Bao: It's very clear that the mining sector has a unique role to play in supporting a nature positive agenda. What are similarities and differences between these requirements and the TNFD'S recommendations and also the requirements from the EU's CSRD? 


Carleigh Whitma...: I think for mining, because the sector has such a direct impact on land and water, most of our regulatory frameworks already address this. So from a direct impact perspective, it's similar in both. I think the emerging requirements are going to place more emphasis on landscape level approaches, though some of our permits do cover cumulative effects. That's not in every jurisdiction. So I think we'll see more emphasis placed on that. Also, really on value chain transparency and action and systems level transformation. 


Alice Bao: Thank you for setting the broader context Carleigh. I'll now turn it to Magali, the energy and natural resources specialist in the sustainable finance team. 


Magali Gable: Thank you Alice. Biodiversity has showed up the agenda in our conversation with market participant and mining and metal's role in delivering another positive future was discussed most recently at Davos. Biodiversity is one of Teck's eight strategic sustainability themes, and recently the company announced its goal of becoming a natural positive company by 2030. Carleigh, could you talk about Teck's approach to nature and the company's biodiversity ambition? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Thanks Magali. And as you mentioned, we did set a goal to work towards a net positive impact on biodiversity. We did that in 2011, so we've had some experience under our belt of what works and what doesn't and what's more challenging than we might've initially thought. And that net positive impact or NPI goal is something we're working to achieve over the life of each of our minds. So that could be decades in many cases. 


And so as you mentioned in 2022, we updated this to include a nature positive goal for this decade, which is to contribute to the global goal of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. And so really for us, we define that as being by 2030, that our conservation, protection and restoration of land and biodiversity will exceed the disturbance caused by our mining activities from a 2020 baseline. And so we're taking action in three focused areas to do this. The first is nature positive decision-making guided by science and indigenous knowledge, rehabilitation excellence and conservation protection and restoration through partnerships. And we're working to achieve this through conserving or rehabilitating at least three hectares for every one hectare affected by our mining activities. And since we made our announcement last June, we've protected and conserved more than 51,000 hectares of land, including the globally rare inland temperate rainforest of the Incomappleux Valley in southeastern British Columbia with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. 


Magali Gable: This is quite a comprehensive multifaceted strategy toward the road to nature positive. Transitioning to on the ground experience, as you mentioned, Teck has been doing conservation and restoration works for a while. Perhaps, can you provide examples of what Teck is doing to achieve its goal and the challenges you have or may face along the way? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Sure. So as a mining company, we are legally required to undertake restoration work at our mine sites. And so that's been a lot of our historic experience. But one of the things that we're looking to do more of now is seeking to partner in offsite initiatives that are close to our operations. For example, we've partnered with Trout Unlimited Canada to participate in environment and climate change, Canada's conservation exchange pilot with a project near Hinton, Alberta. And this is a watershed scale restoration project that is addressing stream health degradation at high priority sites, both improving and protecting spawning and rearing habitat for bull trout and Athabasca rainbow trout. It's important to recognize that before we commence restoration work or offsite work like this, that we're following the mitigation hierarchy of avoiding our impacts, minimizing them when possible, then restoring and then offsetting, which is offsite work if necessary. 


Certainly it's an ongoing challenge to continue to look at opportunities to minimize impacts, which can be trickier to do than things offsite. So that is the reason that there is a mitigation hierarchy, so we try very hard to follow that hierarchy. Another thing that we've been working on are nature-based solutions. So these are approaches to challenges that harness the power of nature complimentary to human engineered solutions. So for example, restoring wetland habitat can provide natural flood mitigation, which benefits nature and our operations. And as part of our nature positive decision-making mindset, we are seeking to integrate more nature-based solutions into all phases of mine life from exploration through operations and into closure. But I would say it is also a challenge because it implies a cultural shift in the company that traditionally we've gone to human engineered solutions to our problems or to our challenges, and now it's working with people at all levels of the organization to help them think more broadly as to whether nature can help us and the challenges that we're facing. 


Magali Gable: Mm-hmm. It's a real paradigm shift in how nations, businesses, and investors view nature. Carleigh, I would like to come back to your point about decision making being guided by indigenous knowledge. One of the core components of nature work in general and a recommendation within TNFD is the engagement with indigenous people, local committees, and affected stakeholders. How does Teck engage with communities in its biodiversity management? 


Carleigh Whitma...: So many of our operations are located immediately adjacent to local communities, and even our operations that are located a significant distance from communities still have the potential to positively or negatively affect communities and biodiversity in the region. So we work to maintain positive relationships with communities throughout the mining lifecycle, focused on exploring and advancing shared benefit opportunities relating to nature as well as managing and mitigating potential impacts. One example is our work with several different indigenous communities to support them in collecting seeds from native plants and establishing nurseries, which we then use in our ecosystem restoration work. We also have established a $10 million indigenous stewardship fund that will support indigenous communities and partners in developing indigenous focused environmental stewardship initiatives as well as engagement, education, capacity building, and participation in support of conservation objectives in the regions where we operate. 


Alice Bao: Can you elaborate on what Teck's key approaches are for measuring, monitoring, and reporting on nature and biodiversity? And can you share what data gaps and challenges you've had to overcome? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Well, each of our sites has a biodiversity management plan that assesses impacts and risks for the different ecosystems and key species present in that region. And we're increasingly using new technologies like EDNA or environmental DNA to help identify species and track the success of our restoration. There are a myriad of metrics out there and no one answer. And so the challenge is conveying the complexity of information about biodiversity into simple but also nuanced ways that recognize the locality of the impact. 


Magali Gable: That's fascinating and indeed quite a challenge to convey complexity into simple ways, and we've really seen the shop rise of nature related data platform and services providers to meet this demand for reporting on biodiversity as well as the creation of investor engagement initiatives such as Nature Action 100, all the emergence of innovative financing structure to finance biodiversity investment. Now then Carleigh, what would be your advice for companies beginning their nature strategies and maybe specifically as it relates to resource allocation and financing for biodiversity initiatives? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Well, I would say that the entry point is in developing partnerships, and the easiest way of entry is usually partnering with NGOs in this space. I mentioned the Nature Conservancy of Canada earlier that we have had over a decade long partnership with. And so for companies that are starting in this space, looking to other potential partners that can help, you don't need to have all the answers yourself about what the priorities are for biodiversity in the regions that you operate. So that entry point usually comes through community investment or philanthropy. 

And for companies starting out, again, that will allow the ability to get to know the space, get to know partners in it, and start to assess the impacts and dependencies from that context. And historically, that has been the approach for most corporates with respect to nature. But to further embed our approach to biodiversity, that's really where we've been getting into predicting the impacts of individual projects that we have on nature and starting to embed these mitigation costs within each mining project's economics. So we're doing this at our projects that are ongoing right now at Highland Valley Copper in British Columbia, and Fording River Extension, which is also in British Columbia. So that's the step change that we're really looking towards as a business, that the project itself encompasses some of these things that have historically been externalities, such as the cost to the impact on water, air, or biodiversity more generally on land. 


Alice Bao: So we're battling two planetary crises, nature loss and climate change. Climate change is one of the main drivers of nature loss and nature loss contributes to the acceleration of climate change. You provided helpful ideas for companies to start tackling nature loss today. How can we address both in an interlinked way? 


Carleigh Whitma...: Earth's ecosystems play a massive role in regulating climate and absorbing carbon emissions and biodiversity and ecosystem services can also help us adapt to and mitigate climate change. At Teck, our climate change approach is focused on decarbonizing our business. If there are opportunities in a nature-based solutions project that also provide carbon benefit, that's great, but our approach is to work with indigenous peoples and communities to develop priority nature conservation and restoration for each local environment. Sometimes the carbon benefit may not be quantifiable or negligible under current protocols, but it's still the highest priority for biodiversity and we can't lose sight of that. 


Magali Gable: Thank you very much Carleigh for joining Alice and I. It was encouraging and exciting to hear how Teck is working toward becoming nature positive. We hope to learn more from you and other great examples and how nature related dependency impact, risk, and opportunities are conducted for business strategies. Thank you again for sharing your valuable insights. 


Michael Torranc...: Thanks for listening to Sustainability Leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode and to see our other podcasts, visit us at You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider, and we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time, I'm Michael Torrance. Have a great week. 


Speaker 7: For BMO disclosures, please visit 

Magali Gable Directrice, Finance durable
Alice Bao Senior Manager, BMO Sustainability Office

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