Major biodiversity issues in the non-energy extractive industry sector begin with the direct impacts of extractive operations on the landscape, but do not stop there. In fact, indirect or downstream impacts can often be far greater. Due to the ‘magnet effect’ of extractive operations, they can, in some cases, induce large-scale migration and land clearance in sensitive, remote areas. Additional concerns include pollution linked to industrial processing of commodities, accidental releases (e.g. oil spills) along the transport and distribution chain, diversion of water supplies, increased hunting pressure, and introduction of invasive alien species.
Over time, the geographic focus of the non-energy extractive industry sector has expanded from the industrialized nations to the developing world and the oceans. Recent improvements in technology and transport links, as well as reduced barriers to trade and increased political stability in many developing countries have combined to encourage development of non-energy extractive industries in locations previously considered too remote or too risky.
In principle, the adverse impacts of non-energy extractive industries on biodiversity can be anticipated, avoided, mitigated and (as a last resort) compensated for. In practice, however, many governments lack the capacity and/or the will to develop appropriate regulations (including resource tenure arrangements) to effectively manage the adverse impacts of extractive industries. Weak governance, combined with lack of information, can result in poor and/or inequitable decisions about where and how to carry out extractive operations, who bears the costs and who reaps the benefits. Several voluntary initiatives seek to address these challenges, as described below.