Global awareness of biodiversity has increased dramatically in recent years. As a result, there is more understanding of the many issues that threaten it. This places a greater onus on businesses like Cairn to recognise the impact that our activities may have on biodiversity, and to commit to protecting it in the regions in which we operate.

Biodiversity Framework

Oil and gas exploration and development activities have the potential to affect biodiversity both on land and in the marine environment. Our commitments and principles related to biodiversity are laid out in our Business Principles and our Environment Policy. For example, Cairn does not explore, develop or enter into joint ventures in UNESCO World Heritage sites. Moreover, we take a precautionary approach believing that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, even where such damage is not scientifically certain, cost-effective damage-prevention measures should still be taken.

We take our responsibilities very seriously for all operations that may affect critical habitats, protected areas and/or the welfare of local communities relying on ecosystem services. We undertake extensive due diligence of potential biodiversity impacts, and engage with relevant technical specialists, government departments and non-governmental organisations, along with local stakeholders. Such dialogue helps us by guiding our subsequent mitigation activities.

Cairn assesses potential biodiversity impacts early on and at all stages of project development, from asset acquisition through to decommissioning. We assess direct impacts as well as the potential cumulative and indirect impacts of operations on biodiversity, and we consider these impacts in the wider context (i.e. beyond the immediate physical footprint of the asset). This entails an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and includes consideration of the supply chain for primary products. Any project in which significant potential impacts to biodiversity are identified undergoes additional studies and a formal assessment. These will demonstrate how potential impacts have been managed.

We develop asset and site-specific Environmental and Social Management Plans that integrate biodiversity. Cairn also develops Biodiversity Action Plans where there is a significant risk to biodiversity or a measurable benefit for targeted biodiversity conservation action(s). Cairn ensures appropriate resources and expertise to manage biodiversity risks and impacts, and commissions external specialists as necessary.

When identifying, assessing and managing biodiversity risks and impacts, we follow the requirements outlined in the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standard 6 (Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources), and other internationally accepted good industry practice.

Our Biodiversity Framework sets out a common approach, with processes and deliverables that apply to all Cairn’s business and operations. The Framework is owned and governed by the highest level of management within Cairn and implemented locally in accordance with the Cairn Project Delivery Process (CPDP) (see Assessing risks and opportunities).

Impact assessments


Exploration drilling was carried out in Senegal in 2014 and Cairn commenced an appraisal and further exploration campaign in October 2015.

During 2015, the 2014 exploration campaign was concluded, and submission made, of all documentation relating to compliance with the conditions of the approved ESIA. In addition, successful close-out consultations with local stakeholders, including regulators and local community representatives, were conducted in Dakar and six other regions.

Though our ESIA remained valid in 2015, we revisited it to consider the implications of using different equipment and working in new locations for the appraisal and exploration wells planned. This was accompanied by revisions to supporting documentation, including the Project Risk Study (EDD), the dossier for Classified Installations (ICPE) and Plan of Internal Operations (POI). Consultations with key stakeholders took place, and a communications plan with the regulator was agreed on, to improve understanding and reporting methods.

Mitigation measures were implemented as part of the amended ESIA. We revised all associated operational documentation, including the Corporate Responsibility (CR) Plan, waste management plan and base operating manual.

Seismic studies in Senegal

In 2015, Cairn conducted a significant 3D seismic programme in Senegal to assess the Rufisque block and parts of our Sangomar and Sangomar Deep blocks, and to assist in improving the exploration and appraisal programme begun in 2015.

Although not a regulatory requirement, we conducted an environmental and social assessment to better understand the likely risks to local communities and wildlife, especially in the shallow Rufisque block. This identified the importance of local artisanal fishing activities and the presence of diverse marine mammals. As a consequence, we initiated an intensive communication programme with fishing community representatives, which included operational look-ahead, radio broadcasts and provision of extra ‘chase’ vessels to interface with active fishermen during operations. A grievance process was set up to handle any complaints. One was received and it was managed through this process.

From the perspective of mammals, we maintained our high standard of protection, applying soft-start techniques and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). In addition, we employed supplementary marine mammal observers and collated their findings into our environmental database, which we shared with the regulators.

See performance data Biodiversity.

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