Covia 2022 ESG Report: Respecting the Land, Protecting Biodiversity
Covia is the responsible steward of over 80,000 acres of land across our footprint. Planning for responsible land use is embedded throughout the life cycle of our operations – from our careful approach to early development and operational planning, to our production phase, all the way through our collaborative reclamation process aimed at protecting, restoring, and nurturing the land and biodiversity. Over the decades, we have helped restore a wide variety of ecosystems including wetlands, forests, ranchlands, shorelines, prairies, and more.
Examples of the many biodiversity and conservation efforts are included below.
Best Sand Chardon, Ohio: In 2017, a pair of ospreys built a nest on a utility pole located on site at our Best Sands operation. The nesting location of these once-rare birds of prey not only posed threats to the birds from the live electricity, but it also compromised the integrity of the local electrical grid. Realizing the need for an environmentally friendly solution, Team Members worked with the local Geauga Park District to build a new platform to support the bulky nest of the ospreys, protecting it from predators. The platform was installed approximately 200 feet from the original nesting site, and Team Members were able to carefully remove the old nest fully intact from the utility pole and place it on the new station. Since first being installed, this new location has successfully served as a safe haven for the ospreys without disrupting the birds or their young.
Hephzibah, Georgia: Protecting and preserving bluebird habitats has been a focus at our Hephzibah location since 2004. For almost 20 years, Team Members have worked on a bluebird project at the 3,000-acre site to support the nesting of the birds as well as the safety of their eggs — from the time they are laid through the process of incubation and hatching. This includes placing bluebird boxes around the site in low-traffic areas where the birds can nest safely, as well as preserving parts of the property not used for mining with native trees and grasses that are friendly to wildlife. Some areas are even managed with controlled burns to encourage healthy forest growth, promoting the long-term viability of the species.
Menomonie, Wisconsin: Team Members at our Menomonie site remain focused on incorporating additional resources into Covia’s site-wide stormwater management program by maintaining a 40-square foot rainwater garden on site. The garden, developed with guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, aims to capture and filter water runoff until it can be slowly absorbed into the ground to eliminate standing water, which attracts mosquitoes. The rain garden provides a safe habitat and source of fresh water for pollinators and other native species. Pollinator activity, as well as plant health, survival rates, and blooming periods are regularly monitored by Team Members. The Menomonie wildlife team maintains the habitat with regular weeding and watering, and by replacing plants and mulch as necessary to help the site thrive.
Empowering Our Sites to Champion Biodiversity Efforts
Our work in protecting the natural environment of our communities is a company-wide initiative, and our approach to responsible land management is highly localized and targeted to the unique needs of our sites’ respective communities. Every Covia site is required to submit a Community Action Plan (CAP) that specifies areas of priority for tackling environmental opportunities and upcoming reclamation projects in the neighboring communities. These plans are evaluated on a site-by-site basis to have the greatest impact at a local level.
For more on our CAP requirements and process, please see the Responsible Governance and Ethics section of this report.
We solicit regulatory and community input for restoring the land in our care to its best, most sustainable use, and our incremental reclamation projects prioritize proactive restoration. During the year, our cross-functional Reclamation and Land Rehabilitation Steering Team developed formalized procedures and workflows to more appropriately budget for reclamation. This new, centralized approach aims to ensure our plants have the resources they need to prioritize safeguarding their local ecosystems.
We are committed to being stakeholder-inclusive by engaging with neighbors, governments, indigenous groups, and cross-disciplinary experts to fully consider ecological, social, and economic factors in our land use.
Goals that Inspire Environmental Stewardship
Preserve, Restore, and Improve Biodiversity
During the year, we re-prioritized our commitment to biodiversity and reclamation, aligned with UN SDG 15: Life on Land.
TARGET: Implement a conservation biodiversity initiative at all sites, with 50% of our mining and processing sites holding Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) certification or equivalent.
2022 Progress: In 2022, 16 of our active mining and processing sites held WHC certification and currently, our total percentage of such site certifications remains flat year over year at 33%. To drive additional certifications, we have identified nine sites that will begin the WHC certification process with support from the Biodiversity Conservation Steering Team.
Furthermore, we have established a formal framework and process for our conservation biodiversity initiative, which we will begin piloting in 2023.
Finally, we created a dedicated, cross-functional Steering Team to oversee our biodiversity preservation efforts in pursuit of our 2030 goal.
TARGET: Develop and implement a conservation plan for 100% of our mining and processing sites that have a species-at-risk present.
2022 Progress: During the year, we partnered with a third-party consultant to begin developing conservation plans for sites with species-at-risk present, and we expect to begin a phased rollout at select sites beginning in 2023.
TARGET: Improve ratio of land rehabilitated to land disturbed (compared to the 2021 baseline).
2022 Progress: At the end of 2022, our ratio of land rehabilitated to land disturbed was 1:25, compared to 1:8 in 2021. Our 2022 performance was impacted by additional land disturbances at several of our mining and processing sites, which more than offset the reclamation progress we made during the year.
To address our 2022 performance, we have established clear land management expectations as well as more effective, centralized budgetary support across our sites to improve our ratio. We also created a dedicated, cross-functional Steering Team to oversee our land reclamation efforts in pursuit of our 2030 goal.
For more information on our WHC partnership, please watch this video.