Responsible environmental management

Protecting the environment now and into the future is a cornerstone of Fortescue's success and sustainability. 

Fortescue takes a precautionary approach to environmental challenges and continues to invest in initiatives and technologies that minimise our environmental impacts and contribute to sustainable environmental benefits. 

The success of our environmental management benefits not only our Company but also our families, our communities and our future generations. 


Protecting Biodiversity

Fortescue acknowledges and values the unique biodiversity of the Pilbara region and is committed to safeguarding biodiversity through responsible environmental management.  

To effectively manage biodiversity risks and achieve targeted outcomes, Fortescue implements the mitigation hierarchy of avoid, minimise, rehabilitate and offset. We also work closely with our stakeholders, including government agencies, Traditional Custodians and the general community to ensure appropriate mitigation practices are in place. 

Fortescue employs internal and external biodiversity experts to survey exploration, development and operational areas. These surveys also identify the biodiversity value of the regions where we operate and help provide advice on biodiversity protection measures consistent with the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy.

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Managing Water Responsibly

Water is a critical resource and its effective management is fundamental to the sustainability of Fortescue's operations, the ecosystem and the communities in which we operate.

We acknowledge the potential of our operations to impact water resources and take a proactive approach to responsible water management, as a minimum complying with all regulatory requirements.

Fortescue withdraws groundwater to enable the mining of ore bodies that sit below the groundwater table. Known as dewatering, the water is then used for ore processing, dust control and village needs including for drinking water. Wherever possible, recycled waste water is used to limit abstraction and the use of lower quality water is prioritised over high quality water.

Dewatering accounts for the majority of water abstracted by Fortescue. To minimise environmental impacts and to maintain the water balance, we implement Managed Aquifer Recharge programs to ensure much of this water is returned through reinjection to the local groundwater system. 

We monitor ground water and surface water conditions, and local ecosystem and habitat health to ensure our operations do not significantly impact on the quantity or quality of natural water systems and natural environments.

We do not have operations or developments located in areas defined as ‘extremely high water stressed’ by the BETA Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

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Mine Closure

Fortescue’s mine closure planning is focussed on returning the land to a state that will provide future use and value once mining is complete.

Mine closure is initially considered during the feasibility phase of project development, when objectives are discussed and agreed with stakeholders and strategies to minimise environmental impacts are developed. 

Over the life of each operation, strategies are refined and details on how objectives will be met and measured are provided via mine closure plans. To ensure maximum effectiveness in rehabilitation activities, mine closure plans are regularly updated to include findings from targeted research and trials.

Sustainable Land Rehabilitation

To ensure responsible rehabilitation practices are implemented throughout each stage of the mining life cycle, Fortescue applies an integrated approach to land management.

Rehabilitation monitoring procedures are tailored to monitor the local environmental issues, using indices such as plant species diversity and composition, nutrient cycling, infiltration and erosion.

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Tailings Management

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Fortescue acknowledges that the effective management of the storage of tailings includes rigorous design practices, comprehensive monitoring and management programs, independent auditing and a strict corporate governance regime.

To this extent, Fortescue utilises internal expertise together with external design consultants to ensure that our Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs) are designed to the highest standard to minimise any environmental and community impacts and to maximise operational efficiency.

Fortescue's Fortescue Tailings Storage Facilities Register includes detailed information on each TSF.

Fortescue's Tailings Management Framework

Fortescue carries out all tailings management activities including design, construction and monitoring in accordance with the requirements of risk-based TSF management set out in the Western Australian Government’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) tailings guidelines and the Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) guidelines.

The risk-based process ensures risks are identified and reviewed, and that implementation and control effectiveness are monitored and audited. This process also assists in mitigating the impacts of failure through targeted response plans.

Fortescue supports the improvements recommended by the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) and we are actively progressing an implementation strategy. In accordance with GISTM requirements, accountable executives have been assigned to all sites and our Tailings Management Framework is being revised to ensure alignment with this new global standard which was launched in August 2020.

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