Restore whole ecology not just trees, miners told
BAGUIO CITY—Instead of rebuilding forests when a mine’s life ends, mining firms should invest in restoring the whole ecology that was damaged by mining activity, a unit of Nickel Asia Corp. proposed during this year’s annual mine safety and environment symposium here.
Mining firms are guided by a uniform but very broad guideline: restore or improve the disturbed mining areas to their pre-mining conditions, said Robert Francisco, environment manager of Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC).
But the mining industry complies with this requirement by focusing on “the quantity of trees that we plant or the hectares that we rehabilitate,” Francisco said when he discussed how TMC had shifted from regreening to the full ecological restoration at its nickel mine in Surigao del Norte.
“We suggest you revise your aims to something more smart: create a multi-use zone, composed of protection and production zones,” he said.
He said ecological restoration work would involve replenishing the place’s original plant life and drawing back animals that used to thrive there. The work would also require the mines to reinstate the quality of water and soil of the mine areas.
TMC and its four sister companies at Nickel Asia underwent biodiversity training at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños this year and were taught that the legacy they leave for communities must be the equivalent of social justice, he said.
The firm’s presentation came after scholars offered insights into ways the mining sector has been pursuing environmental programs.
Edwino Fernando, UPLB forestry professor, said some plant species in these mine sites could be rare, so mine operators should collect these plants and propagate them in nurseries even before they start their mine life.
This would enable the company to repopulate the species when it starts rehabilitation, he said, adding that it would also reduce the cost of buying new plants.
Fernando advocated for the integration of biodiversity projects in a mine’s life cycle. “When you have an outgrowth, install the rocks which become home to lizards that are eaten by birds. These birds may carry seeds into the restored environment.”
Perry Ong, a biologist from the UP, said the level of appreciation for the environment was higher now than 20 years ago.
For instance, he said, some companies have taken risks in protecting the environment. To reduce the impact of a causeway being built at the coastline in Agusan del Norte province, Agatha Mining Ventures Inc. transplanted more than 8,000 corals to a sanctuary 350 meters south of the project site in Sitio Payong-payong, Barangay Tinigbasan, in Tubay town.
This was the first coral relocation project to be undertaken by a mining firm and the corals were healthy four years since their transfer, said Jesalyn Guingguing, a member of the Agatha project team.
In Masbate, Filminera Resources Corp. has built a mangrove forest along the coastline.
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