Upcoming biodiversity workshop

Biodiversity Offsets for the Minerals and Energy Industries is to be held in Perth, Western Australia on March 29-30, 2007. Biodiversity offsets, environmental offsets and green offsets are strategies that are currently being actively considered worldwide by extractive industries and governments to counter the unavoidable biodiversity damage caused by development projects.

Offsets potentially offer advantages to these extractive industries, developers, investors, governments, and the community. For the minerals and energy industries, biodiversity offsets may not only provide a mechanism for compensating for impacts associated with development, but also provide an opportunity for a lasting contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and importantly assist in maintaining a social licence to operate. For investors, biodiversity offsets may provide a measure of the corporate commitment and contribution to sustainable development (CREM 2005). For governments, biodiversity, environmental and green offsets may enable regulators to achieve significant enhancement of conservation outcomes for the general good, through the encouragement of voluntary initiatives and the development of less costly policies. For the broader community, if offsets can be properly implemented and managed, they may offer some assurances for the maintenance of important local, regional and national ecosystems.

The debate on biodiversity and other offsets is both topical and ongoing. One approach that is being adopted by companies and supported by government agencies is ‘net positive gain’. This approach is being adopted by Rio Tinto in its consideration of offsets, and also by government agencies in Victoria and Western Australia. Another approach to offsets is ‘no net loss’, or ‘zero harm’, the latter being an approach being taken by BHP Billiton. Both approaches may contribute to conservation of biodiversity and fragile ecosystems, but there is still considerable debate by conservationists and practitioners on appropriate methodologies to achieve desired outcomes and the measurement of those outcomes.

The workshop provides an opportunity to become aware of the different (international and national) perspectives on biodiversity offsets, and to engage in the debate on their value, and how best to ensure that well intentioned objectives are implemented. It also provides an opportunity to discuss issues associated with the practical, on-ground implementation of offset policies and to consider both advantages and potential pitfalls that may result from adoption of one or more strategies. The workshop will include a diversity of speakers from conservation groups, government agencies, minerals and energy companies, indigenous and community groups, and also legal and consulting groups.

There will be presentations by international (ICMM and BBOP) and Australian speakers (from both Western Australia and eastern states), also panel and general discussion sessions and a facilitated workshop session that will enable a focus on particular methodological issues identified by workshop participants. For Western Australia participants, there is the potential to discuss and provide feedback to government on the draft ‘Guidance for Environmental Offsets’.

Those who will benefit from attending the workshop include:

  • Personnel from minerals and energy companies
  • Personnel from government departments
  • Community groups, researchers and consultants with an interest in offsets.


Thursday March 29, 2007


  • Biodiversity Offsets – An International Perspective on Biodiversity Offsets- Opportunities and Risks (Andrew Parsons, International Council on Mining and Metals, ICMM; and Kerry ten Kate, The Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme, BBOP).

Stakeholder Perspectives of the Role of Biodiversity Offsets for Mining

  • WA Conservation Council Perspective (Tim Nicol, Conservation Council of WA)
  • An Indigenous Perspective (Joe Morrison, Charles Darwin University)
  • Biodiversity Offsets and Mining Facilitating Rangelands Restoration (Neil Burrows, WA Department of Environment and Conservation)
  • An EPA Perspective of Biodiversity Offsets (speaker from WA Environmental Protection Authority, tbc)
  • An Industry Association Perspective: the Business Case (Andrew Parsons, ICMM)
  • Panel Discussion.

Methodological Issues associated with Development of Biodiversity Offsets

  • An Overview (Kerry ten Kate, BBOP)
  • Workshop sessions to discuss issues such as scale, timing, location, additionality, comparibility, operational issues such as management beyond mine closure, baseline prediction and metrics, the BBOP Toolkit (David Parkes, VIC Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Kerry ten Kate, BBOP).

Friday March 30, 2007

Regulatory and Legal Approaches to Biodiversity Offsets

  • Offsets Legislation in Other Countries (Kerry ten Kate, BBOP)
  • The NSW Biobanking Scheme (Jennifer Stace, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation)
  • Linking Offsets to Market Mechanisms (David Parkes, VIC Department of Sustainability and Environment)
  • The WA Draft Guidance Document on Environmental Offsets (speaker from WA EPA, tbc)
  • Potential Legal Issues associated with Biodiversity Offsets (Tony van Merwyk, Freehills)
  • Panel Discussion.

Approaches to Biodiversity Offsets and Case Studies including:

  • Offsets: a Critical Component of Achieving Net Positive Impact on Biodiversity (Sharon Laws, Rio Tinto)
  • Alcoa’s Wellard Wetlands – Issues Relevant to Long-term Management of Offsets (Owen Nichols, Environmental Management and Research Consultants)
  • Fortescue Metals Offset Strategy (Diane Dowdell, Fortescue Metals)
  • Other studies, to be confirmed.

Towards the Future: Key Outcomes for Greater Uptake of Offsets

  • Perspectives of:

– Researchers (Eddie van Etten and Will Stock, Edith Cowan University)

– Community, Industry and Government (tbc).