Scientists in Australia have discovered more than 700 new native species thanks in part to a $4 million investment in sustainability by BHP Billiton.
The program, called Bush Blitz, is a species discovery partnership between the Commonwealth Government, BHP and Earthwatch Australia that funded research in Australia’s Kimberley region and was launched in 2010.
Mark Harvey, one of the researchers on the project spoke with The Australian about the project and how the unlikely partnership has led to great success.
“Fifteen years ago I would have laughed if somebody had said to me I could walk into meetings in the mining industry and they could talk to me about subterranean invertebrates and know exactly what’s going on,” he told the paper. “But now they are completely and utterly all over it.”
Among the new species discovered are 272 species of true bugs, 130 species of spiders and scorpions, 36 species of bees and 11 species of vascular plants.
Just one-quarter of Australia’s 500,000 native species has been scientifically documented, and many of the continent’s animals and plants are threatened by invasive species, fire and land clearing.
BHP Billiton President - HSE, marketing and technology, Mike Henry, said the company was committed to supporting the program.
“Supporting biodiversity is important to us – we do this at BHP Billiton mine sites through our land management practices and through our contribution to programs such as Bush Blitz which are leading to a greater understanding of the unique biodiversity values found in Australia,” Henry said.
“I am really excited for everyone taking part in the program, particularly the Traditional Owners and teachers who are playing a key role in the Kimberley Blitz.”
Since 2010, 43 BHP employees have taken part in seven Bush Blitz expeditions.
Harvey, who works at the WA Museum, argued that in recent years mining companies such as BHP have shown they are genuine. “You look on their websites and the first thing they’ll all say is they are sustainable, but now they are actually starting to deliver the goods,” he said. “Some of the bigger companies are really starting to put their money where their mouth is in terms of being sustainable. We like to think at the same time we can do good scientific research that’s not compromising our position as independent researchers.”