Understanding the role of mining in biodiversity conservation

Mining poses serious and highly specific threats to biodiversity. However, mining can also be a means for financing alternative livelihood pathways that, over the long term, may prevent biodiversity loss. Unfortunately, there are many factors that currently limit our understanding of these complex and often-controversial topics. In this research project, we aim to explore relationships between mining activities and biodiversity conservation.

In a recent paper (Sonter et al. 2018), we synthesise core issues that, if better understood, may ensure coexistence between mining and conservation agendas. We illustrate how mining affects biodiversity through diverse pathways and across various spatial scales. We argue that traditional, site-based conservation approaches will have limited effect in preventing biodiversity loss against an increasing mining footprint, but that opportunities to improve outcomes (e.g., through long-term strategic assessment and planning) do exist. While future mineral supply is uncertain, projections suggest demand will grow for many metals and shift mining operations towards more dispersed and biodiverse areas. Initiating dialogue between mining companies, policy-makers and conservation organisations is urgent, given the suite of international agendas simultaneously requiring more minerals but less biodiversity loss.

This is a topic of ongoing research at CBCS. Current work includes investigating global-scale relationships between mineral-rich areas and biodiversity conservation priorities; and case studies analyses to quantify current and future impacts of mining on threatened species and ecosystems.  

Recent papers:

Sonter, Ali & Watson (2018) “Mining and biodiversity: key issues and research needs in conservation science”, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285(1892), 20181926 https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2018.1926

Project members

Laura Sonter

Dr Laura Sonter

Senior Lecturer
School of the Environment
Deputy Director – Engagement
Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science