Caraga Region is tagged as the ‘Hottest Mining Destination in the Philippines’ due to the nickel deposits in Surigao Provinces. According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), 20 of the 28 registered large-scale nickel mines in the Philippines operate in the region. Economic activities intensified and employment increased because more and more companies operate in the region. However, as nickel mining continued to expand, people from different sectors started to ask- Is mining a boon or a bane?
The major issue seen in nickel mining is siltation resulting from soil erosion particularly during rainy season. This is a consequence of the removal of the topsoil and associated vegetation. Nonetheless, soil erosion can be abated by sustaining forest strips across the mountain slopes.
Some CSU researchers established forest strips called “ecobelt” for progressive rehabilitation of mined-out nickel areas in Caraga Region to provide home to biodiversity and lessen siltation of river systems and interconnected sea in Hinatuan Strait.
The researchers pilot-tested the “ecobelts” in Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) and Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) to provide a home to biodiversity and act as barrier and natural filter of soil particles to prevent these from reaching the river system and the sea.
“Ecobelts” are greenways strategically located across the mountain slope. It is designed to shelter smaller plants and animals to make them stay and repopulate the degraded areas. In doing this, the principles of agroforestry are employed where nurse trees are planted with fruit trees and native trees to build up the forest. Flowering plants are also incorporated in the “ecobelt” to attract pollinators which are important agents of seed dispersal to hasten spread of plants in the mined-out areas. Soil erosion pins are strategically put up to measure erosion rate at various slopes. As the planted forest in the “ecobelt” develops, information are gathered to monitor the ’ecological succession’ in the area.
Monitoring the effects of “ecobelt” construction on mined-out nickel areas is done monthly to determine the soil erosion rate at various slopes, plant survival and spread of propagules of the different introduced plant species. In addition, sediment traps are also established in the interconnected sea to determine sedimentation on the seagrass beds and coral reefs.
The team’s partnership with HMC and TMC started in 2013. The mining companies provide the logistics in the reshaping of the mined-out areas and support in the maintenance of the “ecobelts” (eg. watering, organic fertilizer.
The CSU Team on the other hand, provides the Science and Technology S&T intervention, technical advice and training of the in-house environmental management staff. Training includes the application of Mycorhiza on seedlings, monitoring and data gathering of the “ecobelts” in relation to ecological succession and in viewing mine rehabilitation from a landscape perspective towards achieving the end-use plan of the mine site.
Recognizing CSU efforts, HMC has this in its Hinatuan Miners Facebook Page: