Environmentalists view the mining operations in various sites of the region as the cause of environmental degradation. Thus towards the end of CY2011, the call to stop mining from concerned sectors was everywhere in the region. At present, the most visible environmental effect of mining is in the Claver-Carrascal (Noventa) area in the Surigao Provinces, where companies that mine nickel using the surface stripping mining technology are located. With the surface removal of soil, the topmost part is stripped of vegetation thereby resulting to soil erosion during rainy season that sets the soil particles and associated minerals to eventually reach the freshwater and marine water bodies nearby. With chromite present in the soil, the waters in the seas and river systems adjoining the mine areas appear red.
In Caraga Region, the nickel mining firms have started rehabilitation towards restoration of the areas affected by their operations and even in indirect impact areas where siltation resulting from their operations flow. Nonetheless, in spite of their efforts, negative environmental effects are still visible that invite critics and environmentalists to call for ‘mining ban’. Inasmuch as mining as an industry contributed to the economic development of the region, it is rational to assess the rehabilitation efforts of the mining firms and see if these can be improved to further reduce the negative environmental impacts. Likewise, tested strategies implemented in countries that have passed this stage of mining concerns are worth verifying such that the cost of the operation would be lessened.
- Analyzing the rehabilitation efforts in mining areas to identify gaps toward effective eco-restoration program
- Population re-establishment of keystone species through assisted natural regeneration (ANR) in mining areas
Reducing water contamination in freshwater wetlands through wetland restoration
HIGHLIGHTS OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Site Monitoring and Data Gathering
A. Taganito Mining Corporation, Claver Surigao del Norte
Monitoring and data gathering in the field to assess the performance of the ecobelt is conducted monthly. In the ecobelt establishment, Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) and Rain Tree (Samanea saman) are the major species used as nurse trees. The criteria for selection of these species include:
a) High survival rate in the nutrient-poor mined out area
b) Fast growing to contribute in modifying the microclimate of the mined-out area
c) High litterfall capacity to contribute to the organic matter content of the soil
d) Flowering species that attract pollinators that aid in seed dispersal
Both species show promising growth in the area as indicated by the 90-98% survival rate. During the recent evaluation, growth of 5 grass species is observed which implies initial stage of ecological succession. Moreover, larvae of a certain Lepidopteran species are noted devouring the leaves of the rain tree while some bird species have been recorded hovering and perching on the young branches.
Project staff gathering data on the performance of the ecobelt in the mined-out area
B. Hinatuan Mining Corporation, Taganaan Surigao del Norte
The various plant species introduced in the ecobelts of Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) have already started to get established in the area. In fact, early bearing plants such as ipil-ipil have already produced fruits and the seeds are seen on the ground and some have started sprouting. The slow-growing Philippine native species are also showing signs of being adapted already to the mined-out condition. In spite of the slow growth, the plants did not succumb to the harsh condition of the area where the mid-day temperature can be very high and the impact of rain is likewise torturing for young plants due to the lack of trees that can offer a little shielding and modify the microclimate in the area. Aside from this, the wind in the mined-out area is strong that it can blow anything that is not anchored especially in the mid-day. Nonetheless, the results of the recent observations give an assurance of the continued establishment of the plant community in the ecobelt.
CSU Nickel Mine Rehab Team with Dr. Romell Seronay CSU Marine Biologist and HMC Resident Marine Biologist after setting up monitoring stations and collecting sediment samples
To pilot test the efficiency of the ecobelt technology for progressive rehabilitation of nickel mined-out areas, more nickel mining companies were visited for discussion. Among the companies which signified their interest to be a partner of PCIEERD-CSU Rehabilitation Project aside from the 2 existing partners are: 1) PGMC at Claver, Surigao del Norte; 2) SRMI at Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Another visit is scheduled for Carrascal Nickel Corporation (CNC) to discus matters regarding rehabilitation adopting the ecobelt concept.
CSU Rehab Team with Environmental Management Division staff of San Roque Mining Incorporated (SRMI) at Tubay, Agusan del Norte during the meeting for the company to adopt the ecobelt concept for progressive nickel mine rehabilitation
Dr. Rowena P. Varela
Program Leader/Project Leader
Ph.D. in Entomology (Specialization: Insect Ecology, Environmental Science/Landscape Ecology) University of the Philippines Los Banos, College, Laguna
Glenn Arthur Garcia
Master of Science in Physical Land Resources Major: Soil Science Gent University, Gent, Belgium
Chime M. Garcia
MS Water Sanitation, Gent University, Gent, Belgium
Lorie Cris Asube
MS in Land Administration and Mgt., Visayas State University
Norman P. Gonzales
BS in Agriculture major in Horticulture, Caraga State University