Metal absorbing tree species planted in the mined-out area in Rio Tuba showed success through the increasing number of fauna species seen in the forest.
Ronie Falogme, Mine Rehabilitation and Reforestation Section (MRRS) manager of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) said that the mining forest program rehabilitation of the mined-out area in GP-4 was planted with numerous species of trees including plants that have metal absorption capacities like ‘Manglas’ or Phyllanthus balgooyi under Phyllanthaceae family.
“Isa itong Manglas na may mataas na metal absorption. Ginagamit na siya sa plantation at native talaga yon dito. Halos lahat ng napro-produce natin ay kinukuha lang natin sa paligid, sa forested area, sa portion na undisturbed. Doon tayo kumukuha at binubuhay natin sa nursery,” he said.
Falogme said that RTNMC MRRS is working with the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) College of Forestry to discovery and identification of species that would fit to be used for rehabilitating the old mined-out areas.
He said that UPLB College of Forestry has an ultimate goal to apply phytomining or the production of a “crop” of a metal by growing high-biomass plants that accumulate high metal concentrations.
“Further study pa rin nila (UPLB), ang ultimate goal nila ay phytomining. Ibig sabihin, halaman na yong ating ipa-process at doon na natin i-extract ‘yong metal. Iyon ang suntok sa buwan na kanilang ma-prove. Maybe, crazy idea ngayon pero magagandang technology o idea ay nagiging successful from crazy ideas. Baka hindi malayong mangyari,” he said.
He said that after the rehabilitation started in 2008 at GP-4, about a hundred of fauna species have returned.
“After na ma-rehab na maganda, lahat nagbalikan dito. Actually, ang report ay nasa 100 species na ng fauna ang nakabalik. Based sa recording, ‘yong mga nakikita lang. Ang bayawak ang marami dito kasi kinakain yong mga sisiw,” he said.
Aside from Manglas, there are also around 50 other species of metal absorbing trees that are still yet to be identified by the academe. He said that they are just preparing the samples once the university returns for laboratory testing.
Other cultivation and development inside GP-4
The MRRS are also constructing a greenhouse for high value crops such as lettuce and vines.
“Sa ngayon ang nakatanim ay patola, upo at may plano kami na lotus at celery. Kaya in-enclose namin sa greenhouse kasi mga sensitive species iyon,” he said.
Around the area of GP-4, the team made a small fishpond for ‘tilapia’ with a raft for visitors and guests.
Falogme said that a small rice and vegetable plantation inside the GP-4 are used for research, not for commercial consumption. It serves as proof of the good rehabilitation effort of the company after the site was mined out.
He said that the top management of NAC plans to replicate the rehabilitation of GP-4 to other mining sites. The RTNMC continues to promote the rehabilitated site as it completes the tour of the guests in the company.
“Ang isang nakita na proof na maganda ‘yong pagka-rehab is nabuhay ‘yong bukal na pinanggagalingan ng tubig. Iyon ay proof na maganda ang pagka-rehab dito at tama ang species na inilagay dito kaya nabuhay naman siya,” he said.
The GP-4 rehabilitated site has already been visited by the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from the late Gina Lopez to Roy Cimatu.
He said that even Lopez was amazed by five the species of bamboo planted on the site.
As manager of MRRS, one of the plans that Falogme foresee to happen is to have innovations and new facilities inside the rehabilitated site.
“Okay na ito pero ang gusto ko ay maging visitor-friendly siya. Nando’n na kami sa stage na ‘yon pero gusto namin na may makitang bago. May mga bisita na two years ago nandito pero kung walang mga pagbabago. Maganda iyong pakiramdam namin kung may makikita sila na bago naman. Bagong innovation, facilities,” he said.
He said that as of December 2018, a total of 155 hectares have been rehabilitated. In 2019, the company is planning to rehabilitate another 33 hectares.
Since the rehabilitation started, RTNMC had planted about 1.6 million seedlings both in rehabilitation and reforestation.