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We are committed to sustainable and responsible forestry while developing the economy and improving living conditions for people living in and around our concessions.
Our forest concessions in the Republic of Congo cover around two million hectares (ha) which are managed by our subsidiary Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB). Around 1.8 million ha are FSC® certified (license numbers). CIB is the longest holder of FSC certification in the Congo Basin.
A quarter of the area of our certified concessions is permanently protected from forest operations and reserved for the communities and as protected areas. In the harvestable areas we are committed to strictly apply Reduced Impact Logging techniques and harvest at levels significantly below those permitted by national regulations. This approach to sustainable forest management is based on a selective harvesting model bydefined by the natural regeneration capacity of the forest. This means we cut approximately one tree per hectare every 30 years. CIB-Olam is the pioneer in RIL initiatives in the region.
Road development is important to support timber operations but we keep this to the a minimum and ensure that the temporary roads are closed after harvesting. To minimise the impact of constructing temporary access, we have developed a digital approach that uses GPS mapping and customised algorithms to identify the shortest route, protect indigenous trees, and minimise damage to young growing trees. By removing the possibility of human error the system is saving time and fuel and is expected reduce the total distance of trails built since implementation in the beginning of 2018 by 113 kilometres.
We support the eco-guards, who are employed by the government and other organisations, to protect against illegal logging and prevent the poaching of animals, such as large apes and elephants. In partnership with the international NGO, the Wildlife Conservation Society, we conduct sensitisation campaigns to educate employees and the community about the importance of protecting the environment and to explain the fauna legislation and their rights. We maintain dedicated areas within our concessions to enable indigenous people to continue their traditional subsistence hunting of small game in the region, excluding the buffer zones around the National Parks.
Due to the permanent semi-humid climate, the risk of fire in Congo's forests is low. Nevertheless, some forests in proximity to savannahs may pose a potential risk. As part of our forest management plans (last reviewed in May 2020), we have put in place a fire response and management procedure to prevent and respond to fire hazards in industrial sites. Through our continued engagement, we are raising awareness of fire-risks and monitor for incidents of fire with the local communities which in some instances use burning for land preparation for subsistence agriculture.
Our sustainable management approach includes protecting and managing water quality. Our waste water treatment plant ensures all water used at our sawmills and facilities meets water quality standards before being discharged. We analyse all water samples at our on-site laboratory, which are regularly independently analysed and verified. We do not use any hazardous and prohibited chemicals and we are committed to minimising the usage of all chemicals across our timber operations.