Industry Policy

Biodiversity Offsets Policy

Impacts of minerals operations on biodiversity values can occur within and surrounding an operation. Following the application of the ‘avoid-minimise-mitigate’ environmental management hierarchy, targeted actions can be implemented to compensate residual losses that are significant in terms of biodiversity values. Such actions are increasingly being advocated as ‘biodiversity offsets’ and are becoming an increasingly important consideration of project planning.

The MCA advocates the development and application of biodiversity offset measures, in accordance with the following principles:

  • In support of the social license to operate, many companies may voluntarily implement conservation programs. Offset requirements should be complementary to these initiatives;
  • Offsets should not be an automatic requirement by regulatory agencies for all impacts;
  • Offsets should be developed to ensure no net loss of impacted biodiversity values and overall environmental benefit over the long term;
  • Offsets required through regulatory mechanisms should be limited to the proportion of residual losses that are significant in terms of biodiversity values, based on best available scientific evidence;
  • Offsets for residual impacts can include a package of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ measures, which must be flexible in their development and application and implemented over an appropriate timeframe;

Consistent with the definitions of the Australian Government:

    • Direct offsets provide on-ground protection and improved conservation outcomes for the impacted biodiversity values.
    • Indirect offsets are a range of other measures that improve knowledge, understanding and management of the environment leading to improved conservation outcomes for the impacted biodiversity values;

Where offset mechanisms are applied they should be:

    • Transparent in their calculation and development;
    • Developed using the best available scientific information, and include declarations about assumptions that underpin the science therein;
    • Developed in a consistent, transparent, non-duplicative and contemporaneous manner across jurisdictions involved in the regulatory process;
    • Clear and certain regarding expectations for implementation and outcomes, including long-term management arrangements and liability for financial contingencies;
    • Fair in sharing risks between the regulator and developer regarding the delivery of outcomes; o Strategically developed to ensure investments lead to the best value-for-money biodiversity outcomes across the landscape; and
    • Clear in absolving the developer of reasonable responsibility in the delivery of outcomes when impacted by forces outside their control including natural variability, acts of god, or wilful damage by third parties.