Biodiversity

Our overall goal is to contribute to increased biodiversity in the areas where we operate by 2030.

Our approach to biodiversity

Biodiversity is a key part of our land management – from exploration to a site’s eventual rehabilitation and long-term management. Our ambition is to be net positive on biodiversity in all new projects by working according to the mitigation hierarchy (an explanation of the mitigation hierarchy can be found on page 55). Developing ecological rehabilitation plans and working with ecological compensation (also known as biodiversity offsetting) is a natural part of our work to achieve this ambition.

Motives for working with biodiversity

We have identified the following drivers to proactively ­promote a biodiversity net gain:

1. Create social benefit by supporting the UN Sustainable ­Development Goals.

2. Gain access to land through environmental permits.

3. Meet owners’ demands.

4. Meet clients’ demands.

5. Meet stakeholders’ expectations.

6. Attract and retain competent staff.

7. Minimize risks.

8. Facilitate business planning and promote innovation.

Biodiversity

Mitigation hierarchy

Our operations shall be sustainable throughout the entire value chain – from prospecting and production, through to post-treatment and the completion of post-treatment in the long-term. We take responsibility for the impact of our operations and work proactively to minimize the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to enhance biodiversity.

Working according to the mitigation hierarchy involves systematically working with biodiversity based on the following steps:

  • First, avoid impact if possible.
  • Second, minimize impact that cannot be avoided with mitigation measures.
  • Third, restore impacts through rehabilitation and ecological restoration.
  • Fourth, compensate the impacts caused and strive toward creating a net gain for biodiversity.

Collaboration with stakeholders

Our work builds on an understanding of and collaboration with other industries and all kinds of stakeholders. This means that we initiate respectful cooperation and relations with local society. Through close dialogue and the exchange of knowledge, we strive to create a net gain for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Protected areas and areas of high ­biodiversity value

Environmental protection is common in the countries where Boliden operates. Consequently, all mineral reserves and all mine sites, and most smelters are located adjacent to some form of protected area. Therefore, biodiversity management is an area of strategic importance for Boliden.

A review has been conducted of all operative sites regarding what habitats and species are protected and what kind of risks may affect them. For all mine sites, a summary report has been made as a basis for the operations’ biodiversity work and reporting. For smelters, the same type of data has also been compiled.

Significant impacts on biodiversity

We have evaluated our impacts on biodiversity. Land use that involves the conversion of habitat is the most significant direct impact. Discharges to water, water extraction and emissions to air (GHG, metals, SOx and dust) have been identified as significant indirect impacts on biodiversity. Land use for the development of existing or new operations is managed according to the mitigation hierarchy. 70% of our active mine sites are expected to produce some acid rock drainage, which is proactively mitigated. Emissions to air are managed in specific programs and networks for the reduction of GHG and dust suppression.

As of December 31, 2022, Boliden owned or controlled 26,300 (25,600) hectares of land related to its existing operations, in areas adjacent to existing or former operations, or in other areas of interest for exploration. Most of our operations are located in areas where mining or smelting activities have been carried out for anything between several decades and several hundred years. Some of the older mining and industrial areas pre-date environmental legislation when knowledge levels were lower. This makes it difficult to determine an original baseline, and to quantify the long-term impact of the activities. Our smelters have to carry out an extensive characterization of the site due to the permitting process to define the rehabilitation level that should be achieved in the event of its closure.

The table shows the size of Boliden's operations and whether they include any protected areas.

Sites

Operation

Country

Size, ha

Protected areas

Aitik

Mine

Sweden

9,348

Yes1) 2)

Bergsöe

Smelter

Sweden

13

Yes2)

Boliden Area

Mine

Sweden

6,392

Yes2)

Garpenberg

Mine

Sweden

1,694

Yes

Harjavalta

Smelter

Finland

528

Yes2)

Kevitsa

Mine

Finland

1,420

Yes1) 2)

Kokkola

Smelter

Finland

340

Yes2)

Odda

Smelter

Norway

40

No

Rönnskär

Smelter

Sweden

153

Yes2)

Tara

Mine

Ireland

974

Yes2)

Old mining areas and forests

Sweden

5,430

Yes1) 2) 3)

1) Protected area within the Boliden operating area.

2) Protected area adjacent to Boliden’s operations (closer than 5 km).

3) Protected area partly within the Boliden operating area.

Biodiversity management throughout
the life of mines

The establishment of new mines and the expansion of existing operations require access to land. We respect legally designated protected areas and do not explore or develop mines in World Heritage sites.

Most of our mines are in rural areas. The exception is Tara Mine, which is located near the community of Navan in Ireland. Our smelters are all located in industrial areas adjacent to a community and close to the coast.

Expansions or new mining projects are subject to an environmental permitting process. Ecological surveys are always carried out early in the project to enable the development of the project according to the mitigation hierarchy. Results from biodiversity surveys inform the best possible location for new developments in relation to natural value, to avoid potential impacts on biodiversity. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for natural and cultural value are produced at an early stage in the permitting processes for new projects or changes in existing operations.

Measures for ecological compensation are developed during the permitting process of new operations that risk causing biodiversity loss.

Extensive monitoring programs are set up during operations, both according to permits as well as voluntary programs. The programs ensure emissions and risks are limited and managed for:

  • Air quality.
  • Water and sediment quality for sea, lakes and rivers.
  • Soil and groundwater quality.
  • Dust deposition.
  • Biological impacts related to air and water emissions (bioindicator studies: moss, tree navel, lichen, berries, fungi, reindeer grazing species, nesting of birds, needles loss, benthic fauna, fish, and the occurrence of specific species).

When an operation is closed, the area is rehabilitated with the objective of re-establishing nature that delivers ecosystem services and enhances biodiversity. We always ensure that the areas occupied by smelters and mines can be rehabilitated after the operation’s closure. Closure and rehabilitation plans, including ecological rehabilitation, are developed according to Boliden’s standards for every operational site that is to be closed.

We continue to monitor and manage the areas that have been reclaimed for an indeterminate period, and this may, if necessary, entail implementing additional measures in already reclaimed areas. Where possible, reclamation is done in partnership with affected landowners.

Amount of land disturbed or rehabilitated

We own and hold licenses over large areas of land. The rehabilitation of mining areas that have reached the end of their productive lifespan is part of Boliden’s operations and responsibility. The rehabilitation programs are designed to minimize impacts on the surrounding environment and to add value for biodiversity and ecosystem services. We have made ongoing provisions of funds for future rehabilitation projects.

Land management (ha)

2020

2021

2022

Total land holding

24,800

25,660

26,300

Disturbed and not yet rehabilitated (opening balance)

7,217

7,2391)

7,111

Disturbed in the reporting period

61

1

9

Rehabilitated in the ­reporting period

39

129

18

Disturbed and not yet ­rehabilitated (closing ­balance)

7,2391)

7,1111)

7,102

1) Data for closing and opening balance has been updated.

Habitats protected and restored

All land and forests owned or leased are managed in forest management plans. Protected areas and discoveries of protected and listed species are registered and described as well as areas with high-value forest for future development to raise the ecological value of the property. Although most of Boliden’s operational sites are located close to high biodiversity areas, none are situated within one.

There are various types of protected areas in the vicinity of our mining operations, such as for wildlife and plant sanctuaries, key biotopes, protected waterbodies, nature reserves and Natura 2000 areas.

We keep a list of prioritized rehabilitation objects that is updated based on the results of studies showing changes in the status of the respective objects. Additional measures may include anything from measures designed to improve dam safety, environmental performance, water treatment, improved biodiversity planting, or the installation of nesting boxes for birds. Our interventions in older abandoned mining areas are often aimed at complementing the old techniques with new and improved methods.

Land and forestry management

We practice responsible forestry on land that we own, as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC® COC-000122). This includes promoting and protecting biodiversity and creating environmental and social value. We have assigned approximately 10% of our productive forested land for nature conservation. These areas are partly protected through the establishment of nature conservation areas, key habitats, and habitat-protected areas, and partly managed to promote nature-conservation interests. The areas protected by Boliden mainly comprise older forests, wetland and areas dominated by deciduous forest.

Our forestry management includes prescribed thinning, which is intended to benefit deciduous wooded meadows, and controlled burning to promote certain species and biological diversity. By adapting forest management in areas used for outdoor recreation, social value can be created and maintained. Our ambition is for the wildlife to coexist in harmony with forestry, hunting and other public interests.

The table shows some of our most significant restoration projects during the last three years.

Habitats restored

Type of activity

Size, ha

Start

End

Långsele

Reclamation work

5.5

2018

2022

Gillervattnet

Reclamation work

300

2014

2024

Näsliden

Reclamation work

7

2015

2020

Stekenjokk

Reclamation work

5

2019

2020

Old Forests Aitik

Ecological compensation

837

2017

2022

Långdal

Reclamation work, water

15

2019

2024

Laver

Reclamation work

14

2016

2022

Långdal mine, Sweden.

Red list species and national conservation list species

Red listed and protected species have been found on most Boliden sites. A comprehensive list of species and habitats has been published in reports for each site on www.boliden.com.

Strategic biodiversity projects

We work together with several partners to develop the way we work with biodiversity and to restore habitats. This includes collaboration with expert consultants as well as research organizations. During 2022, approximately 55 biodiversity activities were reported.

Several projects to achieve biodiversity targets and measure progress were initiated in 2022. We are active in the “CLImB” project (Changing Land use Impact on Biodiversity) together with ten large companies from different sectors. The plan is to develop a metric to measure losses and gains that will be launched in 2023.

Ecological compensation at Aitik mine, Sweden.

We actively engage in Svemin’s project “Mining with nature”, which developed biodiversity trainings and indicators for reporting during 2022. The biodiversity training program will be rolled out among Boliden employees in 2023 to raise awareness and knowledge about biodiversity impacts.

We have also initiated R&D projects to develop new ­knowledge and be involved in the latest research. Three ­research projects are currently ongoing regarding bio­diversity in cooperation with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

Together with SLU, we have initiated one of Sweden’s most comprehensive research projects investigating ecological compensation. Two areas of 837 hectares in total around Boliden’s Aitik mine are part of the compensation work. This involves financing a PhD student to analyze the results of Boliden’s ecological compensation measures around Aitik. A variety of wood fungi and insects, including some rare species, have been transferred by relocating their dead wood habitats, which are followed up through a monitoring program. The project is studying how the transfer of insect species has led to increased bird populations in the new habitats. Hiking trails have also been created. During 2022, more dead wood has been transported to the compensation areas and activities to improve bird habitats such as constructing nests and nesting platforms were conducted. At the ecological compensation project for development of the new Liikavaara mine, a range of red listed species has been moved to compensation areas.

During 2022, the MINEDUST study into the impact of dust from mining operations on reindeer grazing together with SLU, LKAB and Sveaskog continued. The project will combine large-scale field surveys around two of the country’s largest mining areas, Svappavaara and Aitik, with carefully planned and executed greenhouse experiments.

Another research project with SLU is investigating how to re-establish reindeer grazing species on former mine sites. Two test plots have been conducted and SLU is continuously monitoring the progress.

Site biodiversity projects

A Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) has been developed for the Kevitsa mine site. The BMP will reinforce how we work with biodiversity through an impact assessment and monitoring plan, biodiversity activities, risk assessment, a trigger and action plan, and a notable species / habitats management plan.

A key objective has been to assess Kevitsa’s biodiversity performance and demonstrate responsible management by mitigating and reversing biodiversity impacts while sustaining the facility’s dependencies. This will enable Kevitsa to demonstrate its contribution to our biodiversity target. Kevitsa has served as a pilot for the BMP concept, which will be rolled out at all mine sites from 2023.

At Kylylahti, the work with the extensive plan for ecological rehabilitation at the closed mine site began during 2022 and will be completed in 2023.

Rehabilitation of the closed mine site in Långdal started in 2022 and an extensive program for ecological rehabilitation – both on land and in water – is planned to start in 2023. The plan also includes the re-establishment of different forms of ecosystem services and to bring people back to the site by developing a Sustainability Park. Långdal is a fascinating site where the reclamation work according to permits involved a successful redirection of the Skellefteå River.

Another project is the abandoned mine site of Näsliden, where Boliden has created ecological and social added value together with local residents. As part of its remediation work, we created a meadow with an outdoor fireplace that can be used for recreational activities by the local ­community.

Re-vegetating mine sites can be a challenge and test plots have been constructed at closed sites in Stekenjokk and Vassbo to find the best possible solutions.

The Zinc smelter in Kokkola has planted whitefish (52,000) and trout (26,000) into the sea on yearly basis since the 1980s to compensate for the possible negative impact of effluent on fish stock. There is also a project in co-operation with local fishermen and fishing communities to release 3.5 million white fish juveniles to the sea every year. Fish stocks are also extensively monitored annually, including: experimental fisheries, the spawning of whitefish, fishing observations and measuring the metal content of fish.

The Rönnskär smelter site has planted bushes and trees within the industrial area, while lawn cutting has been reduced. This has visibly increased the number of insects and butterflies, among them the beautiful Inachis io (peacock butterfly). The site has also restored some smaller lakes to the north of the site, in collaboration with Skellefteå municipality. The shallow lakes had dried out due to the ongoing post-glacial uplift but are important reproduction areas for fish like pike and perch that migrate from the sea to spawn in freshwater lakes.

Fish planting near the Kokkola smelter site, Finland.