Nevsun is committed to environmental stewardship; we take active measures to protect and support at-risk species and implement reclamation and conservation efforts to protect and preserve the ecosystems and local species potentially impacted by our operations. Our current mining licenses at Bisha cover a total area of 24.5 km2 along with a 54.8 km2 exploration license area (Mogoraib) with a variety of habitat types, as identified in the baseline study. The nearest protected area (i.e. Elephant sanctuary or forest/wooded land reserve) is located 85 km away and in another catchment. Under Eritrean legislation, all clearing for mining projects requires a permit and this was granted as part of the impact assessment process. In general, habitats of higher biodiversity within Eritrea and around the mine site are riparian forests associated with the ephemeral waterways or wadis.
The main impact to biodiversity from the mine is through land clearing (vegetation and topsoil) required for the mine site to be developed and the diversion of the Freketetet River to develop the open pit. The total area impacted to date is 626.1 hectares (ha), which includes approximately 10 ha of disturbed land in 2014 for the western waste rock facility.
The clearing has produced habitat loss, however rehabilitation work undertaken to date indicates that biodiversity can be significantly restored as gazelles, birds, and snakes have been sighted in our rehabilitated areas and signs of burrowing animals are also evident. BMSC is also undertaking biodiversity offset tree planting to fulfill the Eritrean government requirement of planting 5 trees for every tree removed. Tree counts are conducted before any clearing is undertaken and species being planted for rehabilitation and biodiversity offsets are endemic to the area in question. Approximately 24.6 ha of habitat has undergone rehabilitation and offset biodiversity planting.
The Eritrean Impact Review Committee provides quarterly assessment of the Company’s performance with respect to ongoing rehabilitation efforts. Closure indicators of success need to be developed and monitored by the Company (and approved by the Government of Eritrea) before the rehabilitation work can be deemed complete.
Studies have been undertaken in recent years to compile a list of species present in the Bisha concession area. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, there are 150 species of least concern and 6 species that fall into the endangered-vulnerable-near threatened categories. There are no IUCN botanical listed species but there are botanical species that are listed as Endangered in the Eritrea Forestry and Wildlife Conservation and Development Proclamation Number 155/2006. Due to staff turnover issues, we were unable to complete the biodiversity management plan for the Bisha concession area in 2014, but will undertake this necessary and important step in 2015.