Extractive sectors: how to avoid, reduce and offset impacts on biodiversity?

The extraction of ores, minerals and metals is an essential link in the supply chain for industries as varied as construction, aerospace, the car industry, electronic components, jewellery and renewable energy.

The extractive industry is the economic sector that includes the exploration and exploitation of mines and quarries. It concerns the extraction of roks, minerals, rare earth elements and metals. 9 of the 16 BIODEV2030 countries have identified the extractive industry as a main economic sector behind the development of the country, but also as a cause of biodiversity loss: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal ,Tunisia and Uganda.


Global demand for mineral commodities remains strong. Africa is home to 30% of the world’s reserves1 and is still a priority area for investment. Mining companies set up business there and take part in the economic and social development of the countries concerned. By way of example, the mining sector employs more than 500,000 people in Madagascar, including both the industrial and small-scale mining sectors; in Burkina Faso, gold alone accounts for 11% of the country’s GDP2; while Guinea is the second-largest exporter of bauxite in the world and has two-thirds of the world’s resources3.

In recent years, the entire extractive value chain (buyers, banks, State, industrial companies and small-scale organizations) has begun to reinforce its practices. In particular, to respond to challenges facing the environment and society, but also those linked to the loss of biodiversity.The operational, reputational, marketing, legal and financial risks identified are behind such changes to its practices. However, mining activities continue to greatly impact biodiversity.


Share of small-scale mines in global mining production

Source (in french): Jean-Pierre Boris. (2018, June 30). Revelations on African artisanal mining [Radio program]. RFI.


Mining & quarrying have an impact on biodiversity at several levels in terms of time and space. The entire life cycle of an extractive project has an impact on ecosystems. And the impact is not limited to the extractive site alone, but rather applies on a regional and even global scale.

The direct activities carried out in the extractive sector (extraction, processing and storage of minerals) destroy and contaminate ecosystems and the species living in them through chemical and physical discharges (dust, aerosols, mercury and cyanide, etc.). Forests, wetlands and mangroves, arid areas, coral reefs, freshwater and open sea: the mining sector leaves no ecosystem unharmed. The development of infrastructure associated with extractive sites (roads and pipelines, etc.) increases threats to biodiversity that include habitat destruction and fragmentation.

50 million km²

Land area impacted by industrial mining

Source (in french): SystExt, Rapport d’étude controverses minières, novembre 2021, 162p.


Extractive operations have negative impacts on biodiversity caused by the following:

1. The choice of production site: destruction and fragmentation of exploited ecosystems. Indeed, sites should be chosen not only according to the deposits present, but also to the ecological impact of the ecosystems being destroyed.

2. The type of exploitation (industrial, semi-mechanised, small-scale) and the means of exploitation (e.g. chemicals used for mineral extraction and waste treatment). Pollution from the mining industry must be controlled, reduced or eliminated.

3. Means and routes for the transport of minerals and waste. As operations already have a very high impact on the extraction area, new developments should be allowed only near existing transport routes.



  • Avoiding areas of high biodiversity value for the implementation of mining sites
  • Applying the “avoid/reduce/compensate” sequence with the objective of “no net loss of biodiversity”
  • Sound chemical management, reducing mercury use in small-scale mines by 80% as an example
  • Post-mining damage repair and restoration: restore at least 80% of the mine surface in the last year of the concession

Sources :

1 Maréchal Louis, “Does the mining sector mean development for Africa? ”, Foreign Policy, 2013/2 (Summer), pp. 85-98. DOI: 10.3917/pe.132.0085.

2 Directorate General of the Treasury. (2020) The mining sector in Gabon. Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery. (accessed on 24/01/2022)

3 Ministry for Investments and Public-Private Partnerships of Guinea. Sectoral presentation: Mines. (accessed on 24/01/2022)

Crédit photo : ISSEMBE SONIER / AFD