BMSC 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 agreement area is 46.5 km2 along with a 41.1 km² exploration license area (Mogoraib) with a variety of habitat types, as identified in the baseline study. In general, habitats of higher biodiversity within Eritrea and around the mine site are riparian forests associated with the ephemeral waterways or wadis. There are no protected areas within or close to the mine. The nearest protected area is the Gash Setit wildlife reserve, located 85 km SE of Bisha mine and in another water catchment basin. However, it is worth noting that the Western Plain (Barka River) area, important for bird species, lies approximately 4 km north of the mine lease area. This area is not currently protected under Eritrean law.
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. Under Eritrean legislation, all clearing for mining projects requires a permit and this was granted as part of the impact assessment process. The total area impacted to date is 697.31 hectares, the increased area over 2014 reporting is primarily due to including the peripheral areas with low levels of impact in the overall total.
The clearing has produced habitat loss, however rehabilitation work undertaken to date indicates that biodiversity can be significantly restored as gazelles, ostriches, boars, jackals, hyenas, hares, 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.
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 156 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. An advanced draft of the Biodiversity Management Plan was completed in December 2015 and various measures implemented consistent with the plan, as it is being finalized.